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  • Jennifer Stafford

Getting to Know Self Series: How to Feel Feelings

When you were growing up, did your parents or caretakers sit you down and talk to you about feelings or emotions? Did they acknowledge them to be real or valid? These are real questions, there are many of us out there that were never taught how to feel feelings. This applies to feeling pleasant and unpleasant feelings.

We are taught how to brush our teeth, tie our shoes, comb our hair, but rarely are we taught as little humans how to guide ourselves through the experience of having emotions. Humans are emotional creatures. Emotions are the lubricant to our being, so not knowing what to do with them or how to handle them can be considerably damaging to our life experiences.

Feeling feelings requires courageous vulnerability. Infants and very young children are by default courageously vulnerable, they know nothing else, but to show how they are feeling without filtering for the concern or perception of others. It is a connection with self that we all have at one point in our lives and then for most of us it quickly fades away as puberty packs on the pimples. Once our more advanced cognitive brain development starts to really kick in many of us learn to overthink, make assumptions and worry about what others may think of us. Most of us are taught to worry about what others may think instead of having been taught how to clearly articulate what we feel to others.

It is almost as though the majority of us are taught to be mind readers overly concerned about the perception of others, yet unable to read our own minds or appropriately validate our own perspective by understanding how we feel.

Young children are vulnerable because they are open, they are open hearted and open minded. Physically, they are unable to protect themselves and cognitively unable to anticipate danger. Vulnerability is not weakness; it is also not sharing your life story to gain sympathy or validation from others. Vulnerability is being open, open hearted and open minded. Once we age out of childhood, being vulnerable starts to require significant amounts of courage.

Take a look below and see if this 3-step process can support you with getting to the root of how you may be feeling. Perhaps you can make these steps part of a personal care routine. After all, feeling feelings is kind of a big deal.

Step 1: Acknowledgement Give yourself permission to allow the emotion to be identified without judgement, just observation. Attempt to determine if the emotion feels more negative or positive. Possibly utilize an emotion chart to support you in giving the emotion a name.


- Emotion Chart

Step 2: Exploration Allow yourself to understand how the emotion is impacting you without judging how you are being impacted. Take a few deep belly breaths and identify where you are feeling the emotion in your body. Again, without judgement or blame, reflect on what occurred and how you are being impacted. Be mindful of not spiraling or getting stuck on why you are experiencing the feeling. Walk your thoughts toward validating the fact that what you are feeling is real for you.

Questions to ask yourself

- Where do I feel this emotion physically?

- What has happened?

- What is happening for me?

Step 3: Validation

Kindly remind yourself that how you are impacted matters. The unpleasantness or pleasantness of the emotion you are experiencing matters and is valid. This is when you think about how you would hold space for someone you love and care about and then give that space to yourself. Bring compassion and grace to your experience of the emotion, reminding yourself that feelings are not permanent, but temporary. Reminders to yourself - How you are impacted matters - It's okay, you will be okay - Be present, feelings are not permanent

"When we learn how to feel, we learn how to live fully and freely." - Unknown



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