I’m a therapist. I talk a lot about feelings. On this site, I write a lot about feelings, how overwhelming they can be, the consequence of letting them spin out of control, and how to manage them. Since I don’t want feelings to get a bad reputation, I’m going to talk about what incredible guides they can be.
People come to see me for help with their relationships, careers, decision-making, and trauma work. Feelings play an important role in all of these situations. It’s common for people to have trouble deciphering and trusting their feelings. For most of us, when feelings are left unidentified or untrusted they can start to feel like they are totally out of our control. This is when emotion management is really helpful.
And sometimes they’re not out of control. Sometimes they don’t need to be contained and managed. There are times when all we need to do is listen to them because they are telling us something we need to know. This is tricky, though. It can be a tough balance between listening to what our feelings are telling us and feeling overwhelmed and confused by them.
A lot of us struggle with this. We look for ways to soothe feelings we would rather not feel. We look for ways to soothe others’ feelings that they would rather not feel. We reinforce that certain feelings are nothing more than a hurdle to jump. We just want those feelings to go away so that we can feel good again and do what we want to do. It’s understandable.
Remember the example about fire? When we put our hand near a flame, we feel the heat. The closer we move our hand to that flame, the more heat we can feel and the greater the pain we experience. If it didn’t hurt, we wouldn’t be inspired to keep a prudent distance from the flame, and we’d get burned. The pain serves as a useful guide to help us protect ourselves from danger.
We can use this logic for all emotion states, too. If we’re resentful, it might mean we need to self-advocate. If we’re embarrassed, it might mean we need to be more honest with ourselves. If we’re anxious, it might mean we need to put more effort into something. And let’s look at a big one- guilt and shame. Sometimes these emotion states are warning us and sometimes they’re drowning us… and sometimes it’s both.
There are plenty of times when feelings are less about our present experience and more about our past experience. When this happens, the anxiety that we’re feeling might have nothing to do with our level of effort. This is when managing and containing the feeling is important because the guide is a bit off; it’s your brain’s way of trying to predict what is going to happen next based on an old pattern, not the current pattern.
The best way to differentiate between feelings as guides and feelings as overwhelming monsters that need to be managed and contained is to learn about your patterns, past, and present, and start making connections.
If you have any questions about how you can use your feelings as guides, please call or email me. My contact information is located in the “Contact Me” section of this website. I look forward to talking with you!
Love and Be Loved,