Feelings, Nothing More than Feelings

“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?”

 

 

Take Your own Prescription

Some days being a therapist can feel hypocritical. One session I’m asking someone what keeps them stuck in their safe-zone and the next session I’m asking someone what it might look like to create more safety. One lady wants to talk about spending more time with her kids and another wants to talk about getting more distance from her role as a mother.

How can this weight loss system work so well for Pam and completely bust on Jasmine? How can Edgar need a support group and Jim need a quiet walk in the woods? Why does Jill need to learn to not say so much and Peggy needs to speak up. Why did my doctor give me a z-pack but she gave the lady before me iron supplements?!

I’m saying a lot of obvious things. Is it getting annoying yet? Of course there are different things going wrong for different people. This is not revolutionary. So in the interest of interest, let’s take it one step further…

There are millions of different ways to live a fulfilling life. My definition of a fulfilling life is likely vastly different from yours. And thank goodness, can you imagine how congested the trails would be if everyone joined you for your Saturday morning hike?

This is why I take such offense with the word “should” (or “ought” if you’re fancy). Day in and day out we spend so much time and energy shoulding on ourselves in an attempt to conform to whatever newly developed idea of normal we have recently been sold. Many of us work from dawn till dusk hopping from one steaming pile of “should” to another.

Here comes a MASSIVE SECRET!! There is a great deal of power in eradicating that word and sentiment and replacing it with the philosophy of want or will.

 

“I should mow the grass before the homeowners association chair sends me a letter.”

“I want to mow the grass to avoid conflict with Mr Homeowners association.”

 

“I should call mom more often.”

“I will call mom more often.”

 

“I should clean out these closets.”

“I want to clean out these closets.”

Man that difference is so subtle. SO SUBTLE!! To feel the real intense power of that trick you need to do two favors for me: 1. replace the content with something you should on yourself about and then 2. use it for like a week. The change is so subtle, but the power is compounding and enormous. You’re not even going to believe it! Go ahead and try it, I’ll wait.

 

If you think that was cool you should click here and get more personalized guidance designed just for you!!

Why I oughta..

Picture it, you’re in a room with old whatserface….gah you can’t stand old whatserface… and she says that thing she always says and you get so ticked off. OMG. Whatserface! You smile, and squint and nod and excuse yourself.

Then you think about her for the rest of the day. Your resentment of her lingers long after but we are decent people so we don’t talk about how much time you spend thinking about her. But you made up this BRILLIANT comeback in the shower a week later that would have REALLY stung her. DANGIT!

The same thing happens even when an encounter isn’t that big of a deal, but you tend to walk away with this lingering yuck. That’s a good term for it, the lingering yuck. It’s the things you should have said, the questions about what was happening, the fears that you said something wrong or were misinterpreted. The desire to do it over and do it better.

That second chance to relive a moment so rarely comes.

What you’re experiencing is called an incomplete encounter. You might not be surprised that this is a thing we do to ourselves A LOT. We diminish our input or our feelings or our vulnerability to a point that what we both give and get from an encounter is actually very minimal.  Instead of saying “I am mad that I was just on the toilet without any paper.” You say, “Were you the last one in the bathroom? SOMEONE forgot to change the toilet paper.” Did you see that? In two different ways you bowed out of showing up with the truth. You’re mad! You sat down to poo poo and got stranded!! It’s okay to be mad about that! In this case, instead of owning your feelings and declaring them, you wrapped them up first in a question and second in the vagueness of accusing a “someone.” You have just set yourself up for an incomplete encounter. What are the ramifications of this type of incomplete encounter? Emotional residue. That’s a disgusting picture. From that encounter, left behind in your psyche are residual emotions, what ifs and should haves that sit and fester.  Congratulations, you have officially packed that incident away for future use. You didn’t say the vulnerable truth in that moment and it will stick with you. Maybe someday it will mature into a full grown weapon that you will whip out in a fight. “Remember when you NEVER change the toilet paper?! How lazy are you?!”

It doesn’t just happen with yuck feelings like anger. It happens with affection too.  You see your partner doing some adorable thing that they do and you just want to shout, “Oh My God BABY! You ARE SO CUTE!” and you don’t because that is weird. Maybe the checkout lady at the grocery store is so fast and accurate, but you don’t say “Nice work! That was awesome!”

Encounter Diminished. What are the ramifications of diminishing an encounter? Bruh, don’t get me started.

I’m not saying this is a dysfunction or bad behavior. It’s just…well… small. We are such rich creatures capable of such depth and beauty and connection and we diminish. We do it for so many reasons. Maybe we are scared or don’t want to seem weird or get in over our heads. This world is such a threatening place! We cannot be open. We cannot show the soft underbelly. Yeah, I accept that. I do it too, quite frequently. But I guess I can’t help but wonder how our lives would change if we approached each encounter with more wholeness, more awareness,  more whole-heartedness, more of ourselves. If we lived out-loud instead of in our minds. If we said to Old Whatserface, “Girl, that thing you say drives me nuts. Can we skip it?” What would happen? If we told our friends what we really think of them, or catch our partner being amazing…What radical experiences might we find? How might we be powerfully changed?

If you long to enrich your own emotional and relational experiences toward a deeper more meaningful honesty, book an appointment. 

 

The Ugly Face of Pleasing Others

You might think you are good at pleasing people and keeping the peace, but I am here to tell you that I am the queen of that kingdom. I have spent years priding myself on how my life was low drama and how I am friends with everyone. Until very recently I had only yelled at someone once in my life. I was deeply proud of this practice and had honed these skills my entire life.

As the foremost authority, I want to tell you that there are some major drawbacks to choosing this path. I feel it only fair that you should be made aware of these drawbacks before your self-concept gets locked in too tightly with this character trait.

You can easily lose touch with your desires.

It starts simple, you genuinely don’t care where you go for dinner or what movie you both go to see. But after years of saying you don’t care about this or that, people can find that they have lost touch with what makes them truly happy. If you spend the bulk of your energy making other people happy and lose touch with what makes you light up guess what you have a hard time conjuring up anymore? Happiness. Over time having no opinion about something evolves into not caring, and not caring evolves into apathy. Apathy is where emotions like love, peace and happiness go to die.

People can’t reach you.

My favorite thing on Earth as a people-pleaser is buying someone a gift that is just PERFECT. When different aspects of what I love about a person and multiple things that they love combine in one little object and I can wrap it up and surprise them with it. Oh man. Watching someone light up is THE BEST FEELING. You know the feeling I’m talking about? Sure you do, you’re a people-pleaser too. But think about this, If you water down your opinions in favor of others, or express no favoritism at all relative to anything, you block them from ever feeling the joy of watching you really light up. Man, they are really missing out. Having someone really know you and what really makes you so happy just means they get to actually make you really happy. Worse than not being able to make you happy, they miss out on being able to truly connect with YOU simply because YOU aren’t there.

You lose awareness of your boundaries.

Usually when I talk about this people see it as, “It’s easier to get taken advantage of.” Yes, that indeed is true. Advantage-takers can smell people-pleasers a mile away. But the deeper reality involved in losing boundaries is that the more invested you become in creating the happiness of others, the blurrier the lines get between who you are and who they are. A boundary defines where I end and you begin, like fences between properties. If you knock those boundaries down, eventually you can’t distinguish who you are and who they have created you to be. Dis-satisfaction, anger, frustration are often alarms that someone is stepping over our boundaries. That makes us uncomfortable. Saying, “I am angry that you lied” is just about the opposite of what we people pleasers like to do. We find it hard to “hurt” people we love even if it’s in honesty.  So instead of hurting someone with the truth we swallow the hurt or maybe numb it. After some time numbing those yucky feelings we stop feeling them altogether and have no idea when people are crossing a line. Imagine your yard without fences, or your house without walls. People just come and go as they please and take whatever is lying around. What would that feel like? For me it would feel VERY unsafe, very insecure and I would probably never sleep again. The absence of psychological boundaries creates the same chaos in your heart and mind.

People might just lose respect for you.

This one feels like an oxymoron to us. I give other people what they like, want and ask for because then eventually they will associate being with me with being a source of happiness! Yes, perhaps…briefly. But there is a principle at work that people can only love and respect us in as far as we have grown to love and respect ourselves. Putting yourself on the back burner so much teaches them how to do the same. Putting yourself on the front burner, being willing to ask people to be there for you and help you when you need it, and putting boundaries around the people who treat you poorly all work together to shape your personal community. When you use all those ingredients your community looks like people who care about you, are there for you and allow you to be there for them. Sounds dreamy.

 

It’s not easy out here living among people. We are all dented and bruised in different ways and we are all just trying to make it. Not to mention that we all have different ideas on what it means to make it. It can seem so daunting to approach relationships in the right way simply because there is no one right way. This is what I know about you, dear people-pleaser.  You have a good heart. You have a patient spirit. You’re good at giving. And you deserve good relationships.

If you are a people pleaser and want to talk about what it would look like for you to start setting better boundaries (and you live in the greater CSRA) click here to start the journey.