The Importance of “Feeling our Feelings …”

I do under­stand the impor­tance of “feel­ing our feel­ings” in the process of emo­tional heal­ing. I DO value the part of the process that rec­og­nizes and releases emo­tion; feel­ings are ener­getic impulses that act like mes­sen­gers whose job is to report to us the state of our cur­rent vibra­tional fre­quency, and to show us the unhappy thoughts we are believing!

I worked in addictions/co-dependency treat­ment for years where we facil­i­tated anger/shame/grief work with our clients, and I was well-schooled in the pop­u­lar idea that only by releas­ing child­hood sup­pressed emo­tional mate­r­ial can we move past our emo­tional stuck-ness.

That said, how­ever, I have come to ques­tion the widely-held assump­tion that drum­ming up an emo­tional response helps us unload accrued emo­tional pain. I have not found that doing this sort of emo­tional vent­ing actu­ally elim­i­nates, or dis­si­pates the emo­tional energy being regur­gi­tated. Instead I’ve seen that the more we drum up feel­ing, the more feel­ing we gen­er­ate for release. This was con­fus­ing to me. If the feel­ings are old, stored up emo­tion in need of release, then why, in the releas­ing process, do we seem to gen­er­ate even MORE of it?

Such inner seek­ing and ques­tion­ing allowed me to develop a rad­i­cally dif­fer­ent way of under­stand­ing what the role of feel­ings is in the heal­ing process; that shift in the way I see feel­ings served to trans­form the way I work with oth­ers. What I real­ized was that feel­ings come from thoughts, or from old imprinted belief pat­terns — only every time.

What we feel is deter­mined by what we think and believe! This under­stand­ing prompted a huge turn around in me because I real­ized that, until and unless we begin to inter­vene at the level of what we believe, the grieving(shame/anger) NEVER ends. Ini­ti­at­ing feel­ing work with­out address­ing the beliefs behind those feel­ings will not bring true clear­ing. It can­not, because we will just go on gen­er­at­ing the neg­a­tive emo­tional states we are try­ing to elim­i­nate! We must ques­tion the beliefs and thoughts that pro­duced the feel­ings in the first place if we want real relief!

It is in the amyg­dala, that tiny gland located in the tem­po­ral lobe of the brain, where thought impulses con­vert to emo­tion, which are then trans­mit­ted to the rest of the body, pro­duc­ing the phys­i­o­log­i­cal responses asso­ci­ated with the feel­ings gen­er­ated there.

Please do not mis­un­der­stand. I do not mean to under­mine the emo­tional body. It is very impor­tant. Our feel­ings DO play a crit­i­cal role, and there­fore need to be expe­ri­enced. But what hap­pens when we under­stand the true rela­tion­ship between thoughts and feel­ings is that we work dif­fer­ently with those feelings.

Once we under­stand that our thoughts, not our life cir­cum­stances, cause our pain, we stop feel­ing at the mercy of life, of other peo­ples behav­ior, and of our own feel­ings! We come to see that the only thing that can pos­si­bly vic­tim­ize us is our own thinking.

Under­stand­ing that our beliefs are what causes our feel­ings allows us to use our feel­ings as the mes­sen­gers they are meant to be. Feel­ings alert us that we are think­ing painful thoughts. By ques­tion­ing those thoughts our feel­ings can TRULY shift (we’re not talk­ing about denial or stuff­ing feel­ings here, but gen­uine emo­tional shifts). Mis­ery dis­si­pates as we reframe our per­cep­tion of a sit­u­a­tion. This is what I have seen hap­pen, over and again.

Of course, this is for you to dis­cover for your­self. I rec­om­mend that you exper­i­ment with the con­cept that feel­ings come from our unhappy thoughts, rather than the old idea that feel­ings come from what hap­pens “to us.” Try ques­tion­ing your trou­bling thoughts about your life hap­pen­ings, rather than blam­ing them as being the cause of your unhappy feelings.

To learn more about how to do that, read, Guid­ing Prin­ci­ples for Life Beyond Vic­tim Con­scious­ness, as well as, “Lov­ing What Is,” by Byron Katie (www.thework.com).

Bless­ings, Lynne

Comments

  1. Matt says

    This arti­cle was how I first dis­cov­ered your work sev­eral months ago…it was really eye-opening for me, and (along with your online videos) inspired me to pur­chase your book. Under­stand­ing how our emo­tions are cre­ated has since become a key point that has allowed me to really focus on chang­ing my think­ing and move beyond my old lim­ited thoughts and behav­iors (par­tic­u­larly issues related to self-discipline — pro­cras­ti­na­tion and other com­pul­sive behav­ior.) Thank you so much for writ­ing this arti­cle. If I were to sum­ma­rize it briefly I would say the key insight is that our emo­tions are caused by our *per­cep­tion* of real­ity, not nec­es­sar­ily real­ity! When stated like that it sounds obvi­ous, and many of us have prob­a­bly heard sim­i­lar things before, but for what­ever rea­son it was this arti­cle that really brought this home for me.

    I recently dis­cov­ered an arti­cle describ­ing a tech­nique that adds a com­ple­men­tary per­spec­tive on under­stand­ing our emo­tions, called “Adap­tive Inquiry”, in case any­one is inter­ested: http://adaptiveinquiry.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/A-Breakthrough-Technique-for-Raising-Emotional-Intelligence.pdf

  2. says

    Thank you Lynn, I’ll get it asap and read it.

    Just one lit­tle tech­ni­cal sug­ges­tion, if you don’t mind: I rec­om­mend that you install a plu­gin on your blog, called “Perma­links Moved Permanently”

    There is a glitch in your setup: you changed your perma­links after you cre­ated your blog, and your noti­fi­ca­tion soft­ware didn’t find the blogs it noti­fies peo­ple about.

    I don’t know if you can fix it in any other way but with this plu­gin. It’s free, and avail­able on wordpress.org and it needs no setup.

  3. Lynne says

    Hi Sophie, Your com­ment about what some call “emo­tion” as being “… a stuck, sticky, con­vo­luted and pre­fab­ri­cated response to an opin­ion we hold about our­selves and or life” is a great descrip­tion of what I call the “vic­tim mind,” that oper­ates in us in ways that strengthen its own painful hold over us.

    This victim-ego (or con­scious­ness) I describe feeds on mind-generated resis­tance in the form of low-frequency feel­ings that come from believ­ing dis­torted notions about our­selves and the world …

    What do we do to move our­selves back towards higher fre­quency, and what you call more “sim­ple,” emo­tional states?
    We get bet­ter at the art of step­ping back from the low-frequency thoughts we believe that gen­er­ate the pseudo emo­tional states you describe. Instead we ques­tion those thoughts and beliefs so that we can stop feel­ing and act­ing as if they are true, and expe­ri­ence Real­ity, instead of our own dis­torted ver­sion of it.

    Such, sim­ply stated, is the process that takes us to free­dom from the sort of pseudo-emotions you again, so aptly, describe, and that most peo­ple mis­take for real feelings.

    Have you read my book, Guid­ing Prin­ci­ples for Life Beyond Vic­tim Con­scious­ness? I go into great detail on this sub­ject there. I highly rec­om­mend it. :)

    Thank you for com­ment­ing. Blessings.

  4. says

    I found that emo­tions could be a guid­ance sys­tem, but what most of us call emo­tions are not really emo­tions, they are a stuck, sticky, con­vo­luted and pre­fab­ri­cated response to an opin­ion we hold about our­selves and or life.

    I am an empath, which means I feel what you feel, whether I want to or not. And I feel it pre­cisely, and strongly. I also have ener­gies that can counter sim­ple and nat­ural feelings.

    When the so-called feel­ing of a stu­dent can­not be elim­i­nated by the spe­cific energy, it means that it is not a feel­ing, it is a learned behavior.

    I wish a lot more peo­ple had sim­ple feel­ings, that would allow them to be, moment to moment, pres­ence to their own selves and to reality.

    Crank­ing up these stuck, man­u­fac­tured “feel­ings”? But how would you do it? Maybe it could make the stu­dents aware that they are not real feelings?

    Do you have a sug­ges­tion for that? I would so appre­ci­ate it!

  5. Susan says

    Hello,

    I am very thank­ful that I receive your weekly e-mails.

    I believe that today as I am read­ing your blog “Feel­ing our Feel­ings” brought me face to face with me feel­ing like I am a vic­tim. I have lived like this for many decades which is sad BUT if today would be a day that I could look at what a thought really is and not let it go any fur­ther I feel I would not feel the kind of pain that I do.

    I am one that comes from an abu­sive upbring­ing and also a mar­riage that almost ended in my death. I have many fears, anger, sad­ness, etc. feel­ing but if I would step back and real­ize first of all the sit­u­a­tion no longer exists and I am free of the cir­cum­stances then why hold onto the pain any longer.

    I am in DBT coun­sel­ing and group and one of the mot­tos is “A thought is just a thought” giv­ing it power if you choose to allow it to go further.

    I am sick and tired of liv­ing like a vic­tim and it is time I take respon­si­bil­ity for those thoughts and let go of “where they came from” because it really doesn’t mat­ter now, it mat­ters what I do with those thoughts.

    I don’t know if this makes sense or not but I feel it does to me.

    Thank you so much for address­ing this area of our livs.

    Sue

  6. says

    Even though I don’t think CBT is good as a soli­tary tool for those with deep-seated prob­lems, I do find it to be use­ful as one of many tools for the exact rea­sons you men­tion above. Chang­ing thoughts IS very impo­rant. I know plenty of peo­ple who are great “ven­ters” of emo­tional, but the relief is momen­tary and there never seems to be a short­age of emo­tion to vent in them.

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