You’d be surprised if I tell you that you don’t always accurately identify what you exactly feel. A.k.a, we always admit that we feel angry or stressed, but the truth is, there’s a right way to describe our emotions to help us feel our feelings. That’s why in this post, I’m not just going to throw out ideas on how to really feel your feelings, but I also want to help you truly understand the power of emotions.
I shared some ideas about allowing yourself to feel fully in this blog post where I talked about being your own best friend. I want to dive a little bit deeper into this topic and share some knowledge as I, myself, also struggle with understanding my emotions and still learning about them.
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As Mark Mason wrote, “your emotions are simply feedback mechanisms designed to let you know whether things are going well or not.” That said, it doesn’t mean we need to completely slow down to feel. We just need to give our brain some time to process what’s happening, so we can figure out what’s the next thing to do based on that “feedback”.
We live in a society that often teaches us to inhibit our inner feelings. We hear statements like “you got to be strong” as “don’t cry” or “stop crying”, which sends us a message that “crying is weakness” and so we mask up and ignore our feelings which leads to more suffering.
What happens when you ignore your feelings
Knowing how to really feel your feelings is also understanding why ignoring your feelings is destructive. In one article from Time, Hilary Jacobs Hendel, a psychoanalyst, emotions educator, and author of the book It’s Not Always Depression wrote “thwarting emotions is not good for mental or physical health.” She also added that it is like, “pressing on the gas and brakes of your car at the same time, creating an internal pressure cooker.”
Other effects of ignoring your emotions mentioned in the same article are the following:
- Puts stress on the mind and body which creates psychological distress and symptoms.
- Causes physical problems like heart disease, intestinal problems, headaches, insomnia, and autoimmune disorders.
- Alcohol use, prescription drug use, unhealthy amount of screen time.
What’s more, avoiding your emotions holds you back to achieve personal growth and improvement. Not being able to really feel what you feel, prevents you from learning new perspectives, ideas, and beliefs in your experiences.
By ignoring your feelings you’re also standing in the way of creating a deep connection between your inner self and blocking yourself from getting to know yourself better.
How to Really Feel Your Feelings in 3 Steps
Luckily, feeling our feelings is a skill that we can all learn. You can process your emotions and learn to really feel your feelings by starting small with these 3 steps:
Step 1: Name your emotions
Naming our emotions helps us to better understand our feelings and respond precisely. Knowing exactly what you feel is an essential step so we can take responsibility for them by making the right choices.
This practice is a bit challenging as most of us only use the primary emotions (anger, anticipation, joy, trust, fear, surprise, sadness, and disgust) to describe our feelings but what we don’t usually know is that there’s still going on under that.
If you’re like me who’s still learning and familiarizing emotional terms, using the Feelings Wheel created by Dr. Gloria Willcox is beneficial. It is a tool to help you break down the emotions you’re experiencing.
How to Use the Feelings Wheel
To use the Feelings Wheel, first identify the primary emotion you feel, which is the options you see at the center of the wheel. If it’s more than one, don’t worry. It’s totally normal and okay.
After that, you’ll be more specific by looking at the terms under that emotion. From that secondary emotion, you’ll choose from the two even more specific terms.
As you can see, we’re trying to dig deeper to identify exactly what you’re feeling. The more specific you get, the more you’re able to feel your feelings and respond to them accurately.
Step 2: Identify the intensity of your emotions
Next step on how to really feel your feelings is knowing the intensity of your emotions. Susan David mentioned in her article for HBR that “we’re apt to leap to basic descriptors like “angry” or “stressed,” even when our feelings are far less extreme.”
Label your emotions by rating them on a scale of 1-10. This assessment will help you better manage your feelings and really understand what you need.
Step 3: Reflect
After knowing exactly what your emotions are, it’s time to reflect and understand the “why” of your emotions without judging yourself. I highly recommend writing it out in your journal, but you can also talk to someone about it.
- Journal Writing For Beginners (Easy Guide + Freebie)
- How to Self-reflect Effectively – Knowing Yourself Series
Avoid holding yourself back from realizations and the lessons your experience is trying to teach you. Most importantly, be kind and gentle to yourself. As much as possible, release the pointing finger. Feel your feelings without any blame but open yourself up for understanding and taking responsibility for your own emotions.
“You’re feeling. And that’s okay.”
Having emotions and feeling your feelings are normal. It’s not being crazy, exaggerated, dramatic, or weak, it simply means you are human and that’s okay. As I mentioned earlier, our culture usually tells us to hide our emotions. It’ll take time to learn this skill of fully feeling your emotions, but once you finally do, you’re giving yourself the opportunity to discover, love, and improve yourself which will eventually lead you to bring more love and care to other people.
I hope this post at least gave you a glimpse of how powerful emotions are. Are you familiar with the Feelings Wheel? Where did you learn about it? Also, comment down below for other tips on how to really feel your feelings to educate other readers, as well!
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Jocelyn is a coffee lover who believes that a bad day with coffee is better than a good day without it. You can find her obsessing over stationery, hanging out with her cat, or singing her favorite Taylor Swift songs.