What Does it Mean to Process Your FeelingsFeelings are powerful. We all know the joys of basking in the good ones, and the misery that occurs when it swings the other way.

As part of our survival, humans evolved to be hyper-aware of the bad feelings. The negative, potentially scary and “dangerous” ones are the ones that flash warning signs and sirens in our brain. They immediately get our attention. And by the same token, these are the ones we also try to avoid. 

Yet, ignoring or trying to duck and dodge “bad” feelings comes at a cost. Instead, the trick is to process them. This post will show you how.

But before getting into the why and how, let’s take a closer look at feelings.

Why Do We Feel?

Our physical body has needs. We all know what it’s like to feel cold and hungry, and how easily that’s remedied by putting on a cozy sweater, or taking a bite of a freshly made burrito.  

Our feelings are how our inner state gets its needs met. Feeling lonely drives our need for connection. Feeling sad or anxious is a warning sign that things are not aligned. 

In order to feel the pleasant feelings, we also need to be able to feel the unpleasant ones. In fact, we’ve done ourselves somewhat of a disservice by labeling feelings “good” or “bad.” Yes, there are some that are uncomfortable—that no one in their right mind would choose to feel—but to really truly feel love means to also feel pain and heartbreak. It’s impossible to have one without the other. 

Anger, shame, sadness… all of these feelings have been deemed socially unacceptable. Of course, if they’re expressed in inappropriate ways, they are. But the feeling is still valid. It shouldn’t be swallowed, ignored, or suppressed. 

Feelings don’t simply go away. They’re clever, and if perpetually ignored can find other destructive means of getting attention.

The Danger of Ignoring Your Feelings

Feelings provide insight into what we need and what’s important to us. They provide valuable information that connects us with who we are. 

Ignoring or attempting to suppress them is one of the best ways of becoming disconnected from ourselves, losing touch with who we are. And when we don’t know who we are we essentially exist in a rudderless state, going through the motions. Choosing a career that’s completely unfulfilling, getting trapped in a monotonous existence without any insight or idea of what a more fulfilling life could be. 

When you sever that connection to yourself, there’s that sense that there’s more out there, there’s something, yet you’re at a loss when it comes to what it is. 

People in this state usually try to remedy the boredom and emptiness through shopping, spending all their free time in front of the tv, or through substances, such as binge eating or alcohol.

Ignoring your feelings can also result in large eruptions of anger that feel out of control, or it can lead to depression, anxiety, and a loss of self.  

How to Feel Your Feelings

As a child, you were probably told not to cry, to “tough it out.” Most of us are conditioned to believe that only certain feelings are acceptable, and the ones that aren’t can get us in trouble, or make people not like us. 

Hardly any of us are taught or even know how to process unpleasant feelings.  

So. What’s the secret? How do you feel those feelings, so they can move through you instead of remaining trapped, wreaking havoc? 

Here are some tips that can help. It’s important to note though that when the feeling is tied to trauma or abuse, they can be crippling and overwhelming. In cases like this, processing alongside a therapist is an excellent idea. Your therapist will be able to guide you through at a pace that doesn’t swallow you whole. If you’re a Northern California Resident, check us out. We’d love to support you on this journey. 

Don’t Get Too Attached

Journaling is an incredibly helpful tool that provides an opportunity  to apply language to the feelings.

Think of feelings like the weather. They’re dynamic. Sometimes it’s beautiful and sunny and still, other times it’s chaotic. There’s booming thunder, lightning slicing the sky and heavy dark clouds blocking out the light. 

Just like those storms, feelings pass. They’re not permanent. Though they may feel like they are, they’re not. If we acknowledge and observe them as we would a storm, we become less attached. They’re separate from us—they’re just passing through. It’s when we attach to them and let their energy and discomfort pick us up and spin us around that they gain more power. 

Notice the Sensation

How does it feel? Do you feel hot? Itchy and uncomfortable? Is there pressure? Do your best to remain curious and objective, despite the discomfort. 

Name the Feeling and Be Curious 

For those who have spent most of their time suppressing their feelings, getting to the bottom of what the feeling actually is can be especially challenging. Journaling is an incredibly helpful tool, as it slows down the mind a bit, and provides an opportunity to apply language to the feeling through naming and exploring it.

What is that feeling telling you? Do you need more rest? Perhaps you don’t feel heard. Or maybe, you just need a burrito. Often, what we need isn’t something we can just go and get, which is why tender loving presence and self-compassion are so powerful. 

Feel the feeling, but be careful not to reactivate it with your thoughts. It’s ok to let it pass through you, to let it go.

Shake it Out

Movement is an excellent way to move through feelings. Shake it out, literally. Studies show that this actually helps reregulate when overstimulated. Or dance. Go for a walk. 

When the Feelings are Too Big

Not all feelings can be moved through in the ways described. 

For the scarier activating feelings, it’s best to work through those with a therapist. At the Relationship Therapy center, we use two proven techniques EMDR and Brainspotting to help our patients navigate the crippling effects of trauma and anxiety. 

If you feel stuck or held  hostage by your feelings,  give us a call todayIf you feel stuck or held hostage by your feelings, or if you’d just like to learn healthier ways to process, give us a call. There’s truly nothing more rewarding than helping people rediscover peace and joy in life, and if this is something you’re missing, we’d love to help you, too. 

Therapy in Roseville, CA, Fair Oaks, CA, or Online in California:

If you are ready to change for the better, we can help. Our therapists are ready to support you in your journey towards creating a healthy and happy lifestyle. To begin counseling in Roseville, CA area, or counseling in Fair Oaks, please follow these three simple steps:

Services Offered at The Relationship Therapy Center in California:

Our Sacramento area counseling clinics located in Roseville, CA and Fair Oaks, CA are pleased to offer a variety of mental health services. Our services include but are not limited to: Couples counseling, counseling after infidelity, sex therapy, co-parent counseling, family therapy, divorce counseling, intensive couples retreats, and premarital counseling. Our individual therapy services include, anxiety treatment, therapy for children, teen therapy, depression treatment, and individual relationship counseling. We also offer online counseling to California residents. Please contact our office to learn more about the many ways we can help you and your loved ones.