Good News everyone! I have decided to start posting twice a week! So you can expect me to post mental health and wellness type posts on Tuesdays, and relationship type posts on Fridays!
I often hear this phrase yelled in frustration on TV as part of a joke, but that belies the truth of the expression. It is important to feel your feelings, even when they are uncomfortable.
In the US today (and many places around the world), it is very easy to distract ourselves from discomfort. In my own life, I binge-watched cartoons when my mother passed away; and when I was going through my divorce I spent hours playing video games, drinking Mountain Dew, and eating Oreos by the box. (Yes, even counselors engage in unhealthy coping habits from time to time; it’s the human condition.) Much of what I was doing was avoiding the discomfort of feeling alone, abandoned, and depressed.
Discomfort flies in the face of the whole “find your bliss” mindset that most of us are brought up with. But life is not just one good thing after another. Just look at all the stuff going on in the celebrity world. High profile breakups and divorces, contract disputes, and scandals show that there really is no escape from it no matter how wealthy we get. So what is the point of trying to avoid it?
Okay, so we can agree that avoiding discomfort doesn’t really work, so what does? It’s more than just not doing that. It takes “steering into the skid” and really embracing the emotions you’re feeling to process them. Acknowledge them, give them a name, and listen to what they are trying to tell you. Because that is what emotions are: your body’s way of trying to tell you to pay attention.
Acknowledging and naming emotions puts their power under our control. If we are able to say “I feel lonely,” then we are also able to say “I need to talk to someone.” However, if we just say “I feel bad” without exploring what hurts, then we can’t know what we will need to do about it. This is part of the reason that I encourage my clients not to use words like “good” or “bad:” they are not descriptive of what is really happening; they are simply judgments. But that is a post for another day.
Okay, so we have acknowledged and named our feeling. What now? Let it tell you what you need. Frequently, we need someone to know what we are feeling; and this is where the process can fall apart. Not everyone understands that sometimes it’s not about the nail. Having someone that you can trust not to help you “fix it” is important.
If It Ain’t Broke…
The main issue with trying to “fix” hurt feelings is that it assumes that something is broken. Just because we hurt doesn’t mean we’re broken. So this section goes out to the people who have been given the chance to empathize with someone. If you can’t roll around in the mud with someone, you don’t get to tell them how to get out of it. Focus first on understanding where they are coming from. Whether it’s your partner, your child, or the kid running the register at Wal-Mart; understand where they are before you tell them where they are supposed to be. But here is a secret: When you see their perspective, there is a very real chance that they know exactly what to do next. So it may behoove you to let that advice go.
So in short: Feel your feelings. Give them a name and let them serve their purpose. Share your feelings with someone you trust; and if someone chooses to share them with you, focus on understanding where they are coming from.