How to Feel Your Feelings

Do you ever find yourself wanting to numb or avoid unpleasant, challenging emotions? Perhaps you distract yourself with entertainment, engage in maladaptive coping mechanisms like substance use, or repress and deny any feelings that arise if they don’t seem tolerable. Does any of this sound familiar? If so, it may be important to practice the skill of sitting with uncomfortable emotions.

Sitting with Emotions

Sitting with discomfort looks like encouraging yourself to be fully present to what you are experiencing, which includes the wide spectrum of human emotion. This enables you to process, express, and move through life experiences. Nevertheless, we want to be intentional about sitting with our emotions rather than allowing them to consume us.

Importance of Sitting with Emotions

You might be wondering why you’d want to sit with uncomfortable emotions. After all, they’re unpleasant. What’s the harm in wishing them away or ignoring them altogether? When we attempt to shove our feelings down, this only provides temporary relief. The underlying issues still exist and will continue demanding to be witnessed. Oftentimes, this can manifest through maladaptive behaviors or patterns. It may even be why some people continue to repeat old patterns and make the same mistakes over and over again.

There are a plethora of benefits to feeling our feelings, including developing more insight and self-awareness, improving our relationships and communication with others, and allowing ourselves to be able to process, express, and let go so we can better navigate life events, transitions, and changes.

Process of Sitting with Emotions

The process of feeling your feelings involves four main steps. First, we want to notice that we are having an emotional experience. This might be evident through physical sensations in our body or through the thoughts appearing in our mind. Next, we want to be curious about the emotional experience in order to name it. We might ask ourselves questions about where we feel the sensations in our body and identify when we have felt this way before. As we are reflecting, we want to stay curious and abstain from any judgment.

Remember, we are not defined by our thoughts and feelings. They are fleeting and temporary. We can notice them and gently allow space for them to exist without becoming attached to them. As we process, we might wonder what the underlying need is as all emotions serve a function in order to signal a need. Once we’ve identified the need, we can start to brainstorm how to best meet that need in a healthy way. This is different from trying to get rid of the emotional experience; instead, we strive to gather information from our emotions in order to take care of ourselves as best as we can.

Can you recall a time when you wanted to avoid what you were feeling? Are there certain emotions that are more comfortable for you to sit in that you often default to? Likewise, are there other emotions you have difficulty tolerating? With the guidance of a mental health professional, you can learn coping tools necessary for safety, especially when navigating complex or overwhelming triggers. If you want further support on your healing journey as well as sitting with your emotions, consider reaching out to Embrace Therapy today.

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