Leaning into Feelings

One of the best tools in my stress resilience and anxiety recovery toolbox is learning to accept my feelings as I am feeling them. This is not something I have completely mastered, it’s a process and what I’m learning to do each day, each hour, every minute.

I notice that I often pull back from and resist acknowledging feeling emotions that are painful or uncomfortable. Like sadness or fear and anxiety. What a lot of effort I have put into not feeling what I don’t want to feel or what I have judged that I ‘shouldn’t’ feel. As if resisting them will make them go away! It doesn’t work though and I have found that it just intensifies the discomfort.

So with self compassion I have learned to say hello to fear, anger, jealousy and other uncomfortable feelings. ‘Hello, I hear you, I acknowledge you, compassion for me and this suffering I am experiencing’. This is the same compassion I would feel if a friend or a child was experiencing pain. So I can include myself too in my compassion and love! I offer a comforting literal or inner hug to myself. And I remember that feelings are temporary passing visitors.

Like right now. I am feeling anxiety about a difficult work task of pricing a job I have to complete. Sometimes I enquire into what the emotion might be telling me. In this case I’m scared to complete the costing of a project because I am afraid of the client rejecting it. So then I can look at that. What is the worse that can happen? The client rejects the price and I don’t get the job. And I can reason that this won’t kill me, end my business or harm me in any way. There are many other clients coming to us to do their projects. So this let’s the frontal cortex soothe the fear and threat sensitive limbic system with its ability to reason and rationalise around the perceived threat.

In the case of jealousy, you might enquire what that is communicating to you. Are you comparing yourself to another and regarding yourself as ‘less than’….perhaps it would be a good opportunity to boost your self love and increase your positive self regard. There are many ways of doing this and one of my favourites is to write a list of what I do well, or what I love about myself.

If I find myself in a grumpy complaining mood, writing a list of what I am grateful for is always a big mood booster and increases appreciation and awareness of the abundance already in my life.

With anger, I normally find another feeling like fear underneath. I’ve heard that ‘anger is fear’s bodyguard’. So I might gently enquire into what is under the anger and be extra kind to myself as I look and face what I find there. Sometimes anger occurs when someone or something doesn’t happen the way I want it to. In this case I just have to face the reality that I am not getting my own way! And that is okay and I can accept that I don’t always get my own way 🙂

Many of us have adopted a habit of denying painful emotions. I assume it’s because we are generally not taught in our families and schools how to deal with them in an emotionally intelligent way. So now as adults we have to sort of reparent ourselves. This is what it feels like to me. I’m being a kind, patient and compassionate parent or friend to myself.

I’m so glad I have discovered this way being with myself. I feel a lot more relaxed and less reactive when I feel painful feelings. I like the effect of being honest with myself, I’m more relaxed and less afraid of feeling the feelings, less afraid of what life may throw at me too. I like myself better for it.

Here is a picture I found, not sure the source but I think it describes the process of turning towards our feelings with compassion well.

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