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The Importance of “Feeling our Feelings …”

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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

7 Responses

  1. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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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