“How does that make you feel?”
The first MONTH of therapist school I was taught to NEVER ASK THAT QUESTION!! I was such a tiny little budding therapist that I can’t even remember what reason the professor gave, but I sure don’t ask that question. Just hearing her say it was enough to scare me away.
Oh look, a feeling! “Scared.”
We are learning more and more about feelings everyday. Namely why we have them and when they happen and even what we are supposed to do with them. Sometimes they happen SO BIG and sometimes they are subtle and seem undefinable. They can be covert or overt, fast or slow. They do so much!
Some of us HATE them.
Oh look, another feeling! “Hate.”
Here are just a few things that I have learned over the years about these little buggers we call feelings:
Feelings can be real assholes.
There are some feelings, (like hurt, sadness, shame, betrayal, grief, loss, abandonment) that will stick with us until we acknowledge them. They can hide deep inside of us, or behind other feelings (see anger) for years but they lie in wait for us to name them, acknowledge them and feel them honestly. They can hold on to us for decades waiting to be acknowledged all the while attempting to get our attention by making us physically sick or messing with our relationships and our deepest thoughts about ourselves. Sometimes they just don’t let go! The jerks!
Feelings can be very irresponsible.
I picture them like 3 year old people. You have to take them everywhere you go because they would do a lot of damage if left alone. You take them on trips but you should never let them steer, or even move freely around the car. You have to strap them in the back and sometimes give them little bits of cookie cut real small so they don’t choke. You should NEVER stuff them in the trunk because they could die that way. SOMETIMES they can pick the music. SOMETIMES. And you also occasionally have to acknowledge them and engage them in conversation otherwise they get very unruly. (See the above paragraph).
Feelings aren’t always right.
Don’t let me lose you, feelings are REAL, but not always RIGHT. I can feel very deep fear at my spouse cheating on me, but it can be based on bad information. The parts of our brain that feel aren’t always directly connected to the parts of our brain that hold the truth. And studies have proven that when we are really into some feelings (think fear, or rage) that we aren’t able to be reasoned with much at all.
If you numb one feeling you numb them all.
I think that makes enough sense. If you get rid of being sad, eventually you can’t feel happy either.
Feelings respond well to acknowledgement.
If you are sad you have a few choices. You can say, “I’m sad” feel the tears well up in your eyes and have a good pout. Or you can deny that you’re sad, say, “I’m fine” and distance yourself from others branching the sadness out in several directions and creating habits of avoidance and numbing. Or you could lecture yourself on how pathetic you are, tell yourself to “suck it up” and bury the sadness until it unites with other instances of sadness and forms a militia that then blisters out into a fit of rage.
More often than not, acknowledging a feeling, naming the feeling and then allowing yourself to respond to the feeling give the feeling a sense that it’s work is done and the feeling leaves and moves on.
Feelings mean something.
Physical pain is there to warn us that something is wrong. Hunger is there to warn us that we need food. Exhaustion is there to warn us that we need rest. Just about every kind of physical pain or discomfort we feel is an indicator of something else. We accept these. Feelings are just indicators for your pysche. When you feel sad you need something. When you feel angry you need something. When you feel anxious you need something. So often we don’t accept that. We just squash the feelings because its dumb or weak to feel them.
Be careful with your feelings. Be kind to them. They exist for a reason. Allow them the space to do the work they were designed to do. Schedule an appointment today to come in and answer the all important question, “How does that make you feel?”