Feelings and emotions
We all have them, but how we manage them varies between us all.
They are integral to our lives, they help us to build connections with people, bring meaning to life and help us to know who we are.
Through our lives, our experiences of emotions and how they are responded to, will actually shape how we manage our own emotions. We are influenced in our youngest years by our parents and family, and as we grow up by peers, communities and society.
If our emotions are rejected – for example we are told not to feel a certain way; “don’t be sad” or “calm down you’re too excited” or “stop being angry” in our early years we can be confused and learn to mistrust our feelings. In adulthood, we will continue to ignore our feelings and our minds take over to try to change how we feel. This causes dissonance in us between how we feel and what is being acknowledged and expressed.
This rejection of our feelings can be found all around us and is prevalent in society, which can often feel like a need to be permanently happy and positive. This is an impossible standard to reach and can make us feel like we’re not doing life right if we don’t feel like this.
What is a feeling?
A feeling is just that – something we ‘feel’.
What is an emotion?
Emotion is the interpretation and naming of the feeling we have.
Some common feelings and their emotions are;
- Sensation of rising heat (often described as blood boiling), feeling of tensing over the body, possible frowning.This is commonly experienced as anger.
- A deep heavy feeling in the heart/ whole body, turned down mouth, lethargy (lack of energy), hard lump in the throat, tears behind the eyes (or falling down face). Commonly experienced as sadness
- Bubbles in the tummy / arms / legs / hands, upturned mouth, energy, open shoulders, warmth felt through the body. Commonly experienced as happiness.
- Hyper alertness, twitchy feeling, bubbles in the tummy, shoulders dropping, eyes averted down. Commonly experienced as anxiety.
- Warmth through the body and the heart, upturned mouth, open shoulders, desire to connect (emotionally or physically). Commonly experienced as love.
This is not an exhaustive list and of course, not everyone feels their emotions the same as others, but gives a flavour of how we experience our ‘feelings’ and how we assign meaning to them.
How they are useful to us?
When we have emotional intelligence, our feelings and emotions give us information about the world. The tells us if we are in danger, if we feel safe, lets us feel close to people, lets us know what we like and dislike and so on.
Head on over to my emotions and feelings reflective exercise to reflect on your own feelings and emotions and how they influence your behaviour.
So what do we do with emotions and feelings?
Sometimes feelings can be overwhelming. We may disconnect from our feelings to manage this overwhelm. Or sometimes they take over completely. Often, we feel one thing but decide that we don’t want to feel that way, so try to change it. This can happen with both painful and pleasant feelings.
When we chose not to feel painful feelings, we give them more power and they show up in other places in our life; they may become hidden and more painful and may show up as physical ailments.
To live a healthy emotional life we need to be able to feel our feelings in a contained way; to allow the feeling but not be taken over by it. Emotional intelligence helps; the ability to recognise a feeling and to respond to the feeling rather than reacting. If this is something we struggle with in day to day life, therapy can help.
In the therapeutic space, there is a safe, non-judgemental environment to be interested in what you feel and what it means for you. The therapist provides feedback to help identify how you might be feeling and support you if feelings are overwhelming or perhaps non-existent.
They can offer support and care for the feelings that are painful and hard to manage and help to integrate the lighter more pleasant feelings. Taking steps to feel into your experience with you along your therapeutic journey.
With the support of empathy and understanding our sensations in our bodies can be felt and the wisdom of our emotions can allow for transformation, growth and healing. By learning this emotional intelligence, we can feel a sense of mastery over our emotional lives.