How to Manage Difficult Feelings (It’s the opposite of what we’ve always thought).

Our emotional world is intricate and demanding.

It holds the potential for a whole range of feelings, from love & joy to despair & anxiety.

One of my core beliefs is that we cannot selectively choose which emotions to experience. If we avoid one feeling, we miss them all. It’s like spending our whole lives living in a bubble, it might feel good at first because we miss all the hailstorms, but it also means we cut out the warmth of the sun. So, what can we do when we are struggling with difficult feelings, and still want to stay in touch with our emotional world?

Here’s my offering to you:

  1. Don’t do anything.

Yes, I know, this goes against the to-do list. We’ve become indoctrinated with the idea that we need to ‘do’ things, such as finding a solution. This is an understandable approach – it works in many areas of our life. It does not, however, work with feelings. My personal and clinical experience suggests we need to do the very opposite – stop trying to do things with our feelings.

Instead, we need to practice getting out of our own way, and allowing natural processes to take over. When we start to feel sad or angry, for example, we need to stay with those feelings. This is a really big ask because it’s difficult. It’s also important.

What does this actually look like? Often this means focusing on the feeling. In order to do this we can breathe into the feeling, let it come into our bodies, and give it permission to be there, without interfering with it. Take morning anxiety as an example, when we feel anxious, we may try and convince ourselves to feel okay, or try to anxiously search for a reason for its appearance, both of these activities only increase our anxiety.

Instead, I suggest acknowledging and holding the anxiety (or whatever feeling we are experiencing) gently in our awareness. This is not the same as thinking about the feeling. We are trying to feel the feeling. It is probable that we will feel very uncomfortable doing this. The work is about bearing that feeling for as long as we can. When we give our feelings space and awareness, in most cases, they soon pass.

2. Stop attaching your self worth to being ‘okay’ or coping with life.

We often think that if we feel upset, devastated, or sad that there is something wrong with us. That we’re failing. On the contrary, our ability to be impacted by our life, to feel sad when sad things happen shows that we are in relationship to life. Feelings are feelings. Nothing more. Nothing less.

I’d be interested in hearing about your experience with difficult feelings.

Signing off with excitement, and some anxiety,

Louise

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