To be human is to have feelings and emotions. It’s a normal and natural part of life. However, there are times when events or circumstances overwhelm us to the point where we’re an emotional wreck.
What do you do when you’re an emotional wreck?
What I notice in my relationship coaching practice, in our culture, and, I must admit, even in my own life, is that we often choose one or more of the following strategies to help us cope:
- Distraction—We engage in some form of diversion tactic like watching TV, surfing the Net, talking on the phone or even exercising to avoid our feelings.
- Medication—Who hasn’t used things like alcohol, chocolate, shopping, gambling or porn to numb our feelings and anesthetize ourselves from our present experience?
- Analyze—Trying to “figure it out” is a favorite among personal development types. On the surface, it seems more evolved than the first two, but it’s just another avoidance strategy.
- Blame—Pointing the finger (especially the middle one) and blaming someone else for our feelings is actually a sneaky way of avoiding them too. When we’re “out there,” we’re avoiding “in here.”
It’s understandable that we use such strategies. We want to feel better. The problem is not that we choose these 4 strategies, the problem is that…
these strategies don’t work!
For example, drinking a bottle of wine or eating a box of cookies doesn’t end feelings of loneliness or betrayal. If there is relief, it’s only momentary, for as soon as we stop distracting, medicating, analyzing or blaming, the uncomfortable feelings come rushing back.
So if you’ve tried these strategies and discovered, in your direct experience, how empty and ineffective they are, then you’re ready for a conscious approach to moments of emotional turbulence. It’s a 5-step process that can be summarized with the phrase:
FEEL YOUR FEELINGS
Now, you’ve probably heard that phrase before, but I’m guessing that no one’s ever explained what it means and exactly how to do it.
Feeling Your Feelings can be broken down into a 5-step process that will be, at first, pretty uncomfortable because it’s the complete opposite of the avoidance strategies we’ve discussed. When we’re an emotional wreck, instead of avoiding our feelings, we can choose instead to Locate, Label, Love, Look and Listen to our feelings. The order is important so let’s take them one at a time.
Step 1: LOCATE
Feelings are merely sensations and energies in the body, and when they’re allowed to be and flow as they are, they arise and dissolve naturally and quickly. The 5-step process begins as we Locate where these sensations and feelings occur in the body.
Step one, then, is to sit quietly, feel into the body and describe what you feel. For example, “I feel a churning sensation in my stomach,” or “I feel an aching sensation in my neck,” or “I feel pressure on my chest and it’s hard to breathe.” This is moving toward your experience, not avoiding it.
Step 2: LABEL
There are 5 main emotions: anger, sadness, fear, joy and sexual feelings, and they are normally felt in certain regions of the body. For example, anger energy is usually felt in the upper back, neck, jaw and fists. Sadness is usually felt in the chest, throat and behind the eyes, while fear is usually felt in the stomach region. Joy is often felt as a tingling, upward-rushing energy, and sexual energy is felt in the genitals, breasts and mouth.
Some spiritual teachers take exception to the idea of naming energies, believing that it’s mind-made and unnecessary. And there’s truth in that. However, since most people are so conditioned to avoid and suppress their feelings, labeling is a powerful and necessary step toward authenticity.
Step 2, then, is to Label the energy that was Located in Step 1, and it might sound like this: “I feel a hot, tightness in my jaw. I feel angry.” These first two steps can be completed in a matter of seconds.
Step 3: LOVE
This step is where the rubber meets the road. While most people can Locate and Label their feelings, few of us know what to do with them. It’s at this point that we either avoid our experience with the aforementioned strategies, or we can embrace or Love our present experience by doing 3 simple things:
a) Breathe—Sit and tune into the energy that you’ve located and labeled, and then intentionally send your breath to it. Breathe to the tightness, churning or throbbing. This act alone may dramatically shift your emotional state.
b) Vocalize—Step out of the way and allow the energy to make its own sound. Without words, let the energy express itself through sounds like screaming, growling, groaning, moaning, crying, etc. The important thing here is to make sure the sound matches the feeling.
c) Move—Let yourself be “possessed” by the energy, allowing it to move your body in any way it desires. In other words, do an interpretive “dance,” making sure the movement matches how you feel, otherwise you won’t experience a shift. Go all the way. For example, if you’re scared, roll up in a ball and shake. If you’re angry, pound a cushion. If you’re sad, sob. If you’re horny, twerk; if you’re joyful, raise your arms in a victory celebration.
Step 4: LOOK
Have you seen those birthday candles that won’t blow out? Without this step, you may “blow out” a feeling via steps 1-3, but it will come back again and again. (However, we’re not trying to get rid of feelings, for that’s a form of avoidance, but we are feeling them all the way through to completion. Remember, feelings have a life cycle. They arise and dissolve naturally.)
If you are practicing steps 1-3, and a feeling still won’t dissolve, Look for a story that’s being told about what’s happened. When a story is Velcro-ed to a feeling, the emotion cannot release. It can’t pass through naturally. It’s always a story that keeps a feeling alive.
A story is the interpretation or meaning you give an event or circumstance in your life.
For example, if your boyfriend breaks up with you, you’ll naturally feel sad. And if you practice steps 1-3, that feeling will naturally move through you and release. But if you have a story that says the break up means your not lovable and that you’ll never find a lasting relationship, your sadness will reoccur like the birthday candle! The story fuels the emotion and keeps it alive!
However, that story, no matter what it is, is NEVER true. When you Look at the story and see how empty it is, the emotion will release naturally, and you’ll be back in your normal and natural state of ease and flow.
Step 5: LISTEN
The final step is to Listen to our emotions, for they frequently have a message for us. Like a fever indicates an infection, an emotion often indicates that something is out of alignment in our lives, that something needs our attention or an action needs to occur.
Quite frequently, when we’re an emotional wreck, it’s because we’re not addressing something in our lives. So here is a list of the primary emotions and what they usually indicate:
- Anger—something needs to be stopped.
- Sadness—something needs to be released.
- Fear—something needs to be known.
- Joy—something needs to be celebrated.
- Sexual Feelings—something needs to be created.
When you’re feeling one of these emotions, your body is speaking to you. Listen! Hear and heed your body’s wisdom, for if you don’t, you forfeit the right to feel good.
If you would like to learn more about how to be emotionally healthy and intelligent, I have created a powerful, all-video eCourse called:
Simply click the link to view a 4-minute preview video that explains what the course is all about.
Finally, replacing life-long patterns of distracting, medicating, analyzing and blaming with locating, labeling, loving, looking and listening is not easily done alone. The old ways are deeply ingrained. I needed the encouragement and direction of a coach to help me shift those patterns, and you might need support like that too.
If you are interested in working directly with me, you can learn about that here or call me at 407-687-3387.