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 even in my own life, is that we often choose one or more of the following avoidance strategies to help us cope:
- Distraction—We distract ourselves by watching TV, surfing the Net, talking on the phone or even exercising. Anything to avoid feeling our feelings.
- Medication—Alcohol, chocolate, shopping, gambling or porn are just a few of the ways we 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 pointing “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 avoidance 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 about feeling your feelings, 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 feel pretty uncomfortable at first 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 feel our feelings all the way through to completion.
Below is a 5-step process I call, “The 5 L’s of Feeling Your Feelings.” The order is important so let’s take them one at a time.
Step 1: LOCATE
Feelings are merely sensations and energies appearing in the body. The 5-step process begins as we Locate where these sensations and feelings are occurring in the body. The practice here is to sit quietly, feel into the body and describe what you feel and where you feel it.
For example, your experience might be, “I feel a churning sensation in my stomach,” or “I feel tightness in my neck,” or “I feel heaviness in my chest.” This is the first step in feeling your feelings rather than avoiding them.
Step 2: LABEL
The second step is to Label or name your feeling. But instead of saying, “I feel nervous,” or “I feel hurt,” or “I feel frustrated,” I want you to label what you feel by using one of the 5 primary or core feelings, which are angry, sad, scared, joyful or sexual feelings.
Don’t be politically correct or vague with your feelings. Instead express the raw, core truth. Instead of saying, “I feel nervous,” say, “I feel scared.” Instead of saying, “I feel frustrated,” say, “I feel angry.” Don’t sugarcoat it or soften it. Tell it like it is. Label your feeling with one of the 5 core feelings.
If you’re not sure what you’re feeling, the location of the energy in your body (step 1) will help you label the feeling (step 2).
For example, if you feel sensations in your back, neck, shoulders or jaw, you’re probably angry, for that’s where anger frequently shows up. (“You’re such a pain in the neck!”) If you feel energy in your chest, throat or behind the eyes, you’re probably sad, for that’s where sadness frequently shows up. (“I have a broken heart.”) If you feel energy in your solar plexus or stomach region, you’re probably scared, for that’s where fear is usually felt. (“I have butterflies in my stomach.”)
So if we combine the first two steps, it might sound like this: “I feel a churning sensation in my stomach. I feel scared.” “I feel tightness in my neck. I feel angry.” “I feel heaviness in my chest. I feel sad.”
Notice each sentence locates the feeling and labels it—and 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 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 churning, tightness or heaviness. 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 intensity of the feeling.
c) Move—Let your body express the energy physically. Allow the feeling to move your body in any way it desires. Just make sure the movement matches the intensity of the feeling, 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.
At this point, you will probably feel a shift in your emotional state. If you don’t, if the feeling won’t budge, so to speak, then Step 4 is necessary. (If you do feel a shift, if the feeling loosens or lightens or releases, skip to Step 5.)
Step 4: LOOK
If you practice steps 1-3, and a feeling still won’t release or dissolve, Look for a story your telling yourself about what’s happened or what’s happening. It’s always a story that keeps a feeling from being released.
A story is the interpretation or meaning you give an event or circumstance in your life. When you have a story about something, the resulting feeling becomes like one of those birthday candles that won’t blow out. It keeps reigniting and returning.
For example, if all your friends are in relationships and you’re not, you might 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, “I’m never going to find a lasting relationship,” your sadness will reoccur like the birthday candle! The story fuels the emotion and keeps it alive!
However, these types of stories are NEVER true. When you Look at the story and see how empty it is (you don’t know the future), 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, so an emotion indicates that something needs our attention. There’s wisdom in our feelings.
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:
- Angry—something needs to be stopped.
- Sad—something needs to be released.
- Scared—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.
Finally, replacing life-long avoidance strategies like distracting, medicating, analyzing and blaming with a new habit of “feeling your feelings all the way through to completion” with the 5 L’s is not easily done by yourself. The old ways are deeply ingrained. I needed the encouragement and direction of a coach to help me shift those patterns, and you probably will too.
If you’re an emotional wreck, take advantage of the complimentary 30-minute coaching session I offer. To set that up email me firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 407-687-3387.
Roy Biancalana is a certified relationship coach, a TV personality in Orlando, Florida, and the author of two books, the latest of which is the #1 best-seller, Attracting Lasting Love: Breaking Free of the 7 Barriers that Keep You Single. For the past 10 years, Roy’s mission has been supporting single people in the art of attracting and creating conscious, lasting relationships. He offers a complimentary 30-minute coaching session to anyone interested in working with him. You can learn more about him by visiting, www.coachingwithroy.com.