A crucial part to healing and moving forward is learning to acknowledge and process your own feelings. In this episode, you’ll learn what to avoid, and how to allow yourself to feel your feelings.
Many of us have never learned how to allow our feelings, and have stuffed them down, hidden from them, and punished ourselves for having the feelings we have.
What if feelings are not a problem at all and actually allow you to experience life more fully? Tune in to learn how to allow feelings, and how to create the emotions that will move your life forward.
I’m Andrea Giles, and you’re listening to the Heal from Infidelity Podcast, episode number six, Feeling Your Feelings.
Hello and welcome to the Heal from Infidelity Podcast, where courageous women learn not only to heal from their spouse’s betrayal, but to become the boldest, truest, most decisive, and confident versions of themselves ever. If you know there’s more for you than the life you’re currently living, but don’t quite know how to get there, you are in the right place. Stick around to learn how to create a life that will knock your own socks off. Is it possible? It is and I’m here to show you how. I’m your host, Andrea Giles. Are you ready? Let’s dive in.
Hey, everybody. Welcome to episode number six. To start out, I want to thank you, all of you who are here, who have listened, and who have gone and left me a review, and I want to give a shout-out to MNC, who wrote this review. It’s titled Insightful and Strengthening. She said, “I loved these episodes so much, I started listening to them again. Andrea’s manner is kind and empathetic as well as down to Earth. Her wisdom comes from a place of hope and peace.” Thank you so much. I so appreciate it. Again, for all of you who have gone and reviewed, I truly, truly appreciate it, so thank you so much. It’s how people find me.
Today I’m going to be talking about a part of the model that we discussed last week about our feelings. I explained last week, but I’m going to dive into it a lot deeper this week, that our feelings are how we experience the world. Our feelings are the drivers for our actions. How we feel is how we show up in the world. Our feelings create our experience in life.
What does that mean? I’m going to give you an example, okay? Last week, somebody reached out to me and asked me a question wanting to know how to forgive her husband. She found out a few months ago that her husband has been having an affair, and he’s doing the things that she wants him to do, and she truly wants to forgive him, but she doesn’t know how. What I responded to her is asking herself, “Why does she want to forgive him? What is she wanting to feel? What is she wanting to experience by forgiving him?” I’m all for forgiveness. I’m all for the peace that comes from that, but what I wanted her to be aware of is that sometimes what we do is we want to hurry to get to a different emotion. We want to hurry and feel something different so we can get out of whatever pain we’re in, and so we think, “Well, when I forgive, I’m going to feel better. When I get to this spot, then I’m going to feel better.”
The truth is that our feelings have to be felt. We have to feel them. We have to go into them. We have to allow them to be in our body. As a review, our feelings are chemicals released into our bodies from our brain, so we think a thought, if we believe the thought, it creates a chemical response in our body. It can build up and build up if we don’t allow it to be released. I’m going to be teaching a little bit more about that later on.
But to start out, I want to tell you about three ways that most people deal with emotions or deal with feelings. Before I do, most of us have never learned any of this before, so if you’re hearing this for the first time, awesome. You are in good company. I know that I didn’t know anything about any of this until just a few years ago, and until then, I just thought that I needed to stuff my feelings down, that maybe I shouldn’t be feeling the way that I was feeling, or that there was something wrong with me when feelings kept showing up. I’m going to teach you why it’s actually not a problem.
First of all, one way that people often deal with a feeling is by resisting it, so if you think of somebody coming to your door and they are pushing hard against the door, have you ever had that happen? When you’re little with a sibling trying to get into your room and leaning against the door, you’re pushing so hard, they’ve got their foot in the door and you’re just like, “No, you are not coming in here,” that is resisting. When I’m resisting emotion, I feel my body tighten. I feel my jaw tighten. I’m like, “Nope, not doing this today.”
The thing about resisting is that the more we try to push against it, the stronger it gets. What we resist persists, so it gets harder, stronger. Another way a fellow coach described this that I love, it’s like pushing hard on the brake with one foot, the gas with one foot, and also pulling the emergency brakes. You’re just stuck there pushing hard against everything and not really going anywhere. That is resistance to emotion.
One more thing about that is that oftentimes what happens is we’ll feel like this initial emotion, let’s say you’re feeling some grief, and then our brains are like, “No, I don’t want to feel grief,” and so we start judging it and going, “Well, what’s wrong with me that I’m feeling this again? Shouldn’t I be over this by now?” Then there’s annoyance on top of that until we’ve created this big mess for ourself.
The next thing we do is avoiding emotion. That’s when we’re just pretending like it’s not there at all. We’re just looking away. How we do that is by taking our minds away and doing something to distract us from it. For some people, it’s shopping, online shopping. For some people, it’s video games, or Netflix binging, or eating, or viewing pornography. It’s intended to numb out emotion, to not feel, just to numb it out so you don’t have to feel it.
The third option is to react. Reacting to an emotion looks like yelling. It looks like blaming. It looks like maybe throwing or complaining to other people. It looks like stomping and maybe throwing a little tantrum. Do any of these sound familiar? I know that I’ve done all of them and I’m sure all of you have, too. We’re human.
Now, there is a fourth option. The fourth option is allowing. When we’re allowing emotion, we’re just watching it. We’re being the observer of it. We’re like, “Hmm. I guess we’re doing some of this today. I guess we’re going to feel some of this today.” We might ask it some questions. We might ask it what it’s trying to tell us. We might want to get to know it. We might identify where it is in our body, what it feels like in our body. If we could give it a color, what color is it? We might ask it what it needs.
One really important thing about allowing is remembering that just because it’s there doesn’t mean that it’s logical. In fact, one way to think about this is in thinking about a toddler. How many of you have ever been around a toddler and they come up to you and they’re pulling on your leg and pulling on your leg and they just want your attention? Let’s say they’re just crying and really, really upset about something and you know that they’re fine. You know that nothing really bad happened and that they’re just upset and so you can try to shush them, you can try to make them go away, but they just persist and get louder. Allowing doesn’t mean that you believe the toddler’s story. It means you might get down at eye level with them and say, “Hey, tell me all about it. What’s going on? What’s up?” Letting the toddler tell their story, maybe giving them a hug, telling them that you love them, telling them that they’ll be okay, and then that toddler goes away because they felt heard. They got their story out. Doesn’t mean you believe the story. It doesn’t mean that it’s logical at all.
Sometimes what we do to ourselves is we have a story that we’re telling ourself, or we have a feeling that comes up, and we think, “This is totally illogical. It doesn’t make any sense. What’s wrong with me?” Then we start to judge it, and then we don’t even have access to processing that emotion, so I’m suggesting that you pull back from the judgment, pull back from the story, and just let it be there. Pause. Sometimes it helps to get out a journal and write down what I’m feeling. I give my clients a worksheet called Now Feeling and they fill it out. What is the name of the emotion? Where is it in your body? Does it have a color? Is it fast or slow?
Now, what is the point to all of this? I want you to understand that the point of feelings and the point of doing this work is not extinction of feelings. We are not trying to make ourselves robots that don’t feel, especially not trying to make ourselves people who don’t ever feel negative emotions. That is not the point. The point is the more we learn how to feel our feelings, the more vocabulary we build for ourselves to experience even more emotion. If we can learn that we can experience anything, we become less afraid of negative emotion. We don’t get held hostage by the possibility of negative emotion. We’re teaching ourselves that we can handle it. We’re teaching ourselves that we can move through it and allow it.
The beautiful thing is that the more we are willing to experience a negative emotion, the more it swings the other way and we allow more positive emotion as well, and the more that we practice these things, the more we can move through things quicker. Let’s say you’re having a really negative emotion and sometimes without knowing these tools, we can pile on so many negative emotions that it goes for weeks at a time that we’re just feeling down, or in a slump. When you learn to allow your emotions, we move through them faster. We allow them to fully be felt in our body. We sit with it. We’re like pulling up a chair, “Tell me about it. What is going on?” We’re not believing it. We’re just listening to it. Then it’ll be ready to go, it will be ready to move on, and we’ll be able to carry on.
Now, we know that our thoughts create our feelings, but just like we have thought memory, these thoughts that are cycles in our brains, we also have feeling memory, so if we’re used to thinking certain thoughts, you can bet that we’re used to feeling certain feelings. This is normal. It makes sense, right? Our body is used to the same chemical responses, so it makes sense that those things will keep re-emerging, that we’ll keep feeling them until we learn to do something differently, and that’s what we’re doing here. We’re learning to process them so that we can build our vocabulary of other feelings that we want to feel.
Now, I want to teach a little bit about that. Another thing to point out is that just because we feel something doesn’t mean we need to obey it. We might feel something, we might feel an urge to do something. It doesn’t mean that we have to follow through on that urge. For example, if you’ve ever had a craving for something, let’s say you have a craving for a chocolate chip cookie, you’ll have this craving, this feeling, “I need the cookie.” It might seem very logical why you should have that cookie.
If you can pause for long enough and ask some questions of yourself like, “What do I really want? What do I really need? What story is it making it mean that I want this cookie and that I need to have this cookie? What is it that I actually need? What do I actually want to feel and how can I give that to myself now? What can I learn about myself in this situation?” When we learn to just allow the feelings and feel what we’re going to feel, it opens us up to being able to get to know ourselves so much better than if we’re just covering it up, for example, by eating that cookie and ignoring the underlying thing that is available to us to learn about ourselves. The more that you understand how to access how you currently feel, the more you get to control what you create. It’s amazing.
Let’s go into that now. You get to choose the thoughts that create new emotions. It’s like trying on a new outfit. Let’s say you try on an outfit and you’re wanting to be somebody who feels bold, so you’re trying on this outfit of bold like, “I wonder what it would feel like to feel bold,” so you’re practicing thoughts that create a feeling of boldness. You’re like, “Hmm. It feels a little weird, feels a little bit uncomfortable.” Then your brain might go, “See, you’re not actually bold. Go take the outfit off.” It might try to kick it out.
But if you’re willing to sit in it and be uncomfortable, even with positive emotions, sometimes it’s hard for us to feel comfortable because we’re not used to it, and our brains will want to kick it out, but if you’re willing to think of it like you’re just trying on a new outfit, it’s okay to be a little uncomfortable. You’re like, “I’m just trying. I’m just seeing what happens when I try the on. I’m not sure if I’m going to cut the tags off or not. I’m not sure if I’m going to keep it, but I’m trying it.”
I suggest doing this with so many different emotions. You want to feel confident? What are some thoughts that create confidence? Let’s try that on, “Hmm. I wonder what confidence might feel like.” How about curiosity? “Hmm. I might think I know everything about this situation, and when I think I know this is how I feel, I wonder what it would feel like to be curious about the situation?” I might be looking for other ways of thinking about it, “Hmm. I wonder what would happen?” Just like the toddler analogy, just because our brains try to reject a positive emotion and tell us that it’s not real and that we can’t actually have it, remember the toddler, that the toddler has a story to tell, but it doesn’t actually mean that the toddler knows what it’s talking about, right? We can’t take ourselves quite so seriously sometimes.
One other question to ask yourself when you are trying to process an emotion and when you’re looking at it and going, “Do I want to stay here? Do I want to give it more airtime?” is, “Is this going to help me move forward if I process it? Or is it going to keep me stuck?” One example of this is overwhelm. Overwhelm might creep up. I know this is a go-to for me. When I feel overwhelmed, I want to shut down. I don’t want to make decisions. I don’t want to be the boss of anything. I just want other people to take care of me and I think about how unfair it is that I have so much to do. Guess what? Overwhelm has never served me. Even though it is a thought pattern that has turned into a feeling pattern when I see it coming, this is not an emotion that needs to be processed. This is an emotion that is a pattern that is keeping me stuck. It’s keeping me from moving forward.
Now, let’s say there was some sadness that came up one day, that I was just feeling sad about something. What would it accomplish for me to allow the sadness? If it was something that was keeping me back, then that would be something to question, go, “Is this going to help me?” But if it was something that by allowing it would help me to move forward, then that’s when you sit with it and allow the feeling and allow yourself to move forward.
I want to wrap up with sharing something that’s personal to me, but that I’ve learned a lot from. I got remarried four years ago and I married a man whose wife died of cancer and she had cancer for several years and she died one month shy of her 37th birthday, so she was very young. She happened to die on Valentine’s Day. Now, the first year we got married, I felt so much resistance to Valentine’s Day. Leading up to it, I felt so much dread and anxiety and just planned that it was going to be a terrible day. My brain wanted to make up all kinds of stories about myself, about her, about my husband, about how unfair it was, and so the day came, and sure enough, what I thought would happen happened, I felt terrible. I was really not in a great place. I remember feeling scared. I remember this feeling that my husband was with another woman. That’s what it felt like to me, that he’s not with me, he’s with someone else.
Now, logically, that is not true, right? He could not be with her. But my brain wanted to sell me on this thing that he was not with me, that he was not committed to me, and so I felt a lot of fear, a lot of anxiety, and was having a really rough day. I remember about halfway through the day, just feeling so miserable, and I thought, “Okay, how do I want to feel today? Let’s get a grip. How do I want to feel?”
First of all, it involved wrapping my arms around myself and acknowledging that I was allowed to feel my feelings. I was allowed for it to be hard. I was allowed to have irrational fears creep up. I was allowed to even feel a little bit of jealousy, a little bit of frustration. No big deal. I could feel it. I could allow it. Then I thought, “All right, well, what do I want to feel today?” How I wanted to feel was I wanted to feel love and I wanted my new children to feel love on this day that was hard for them and I wanted my husband to feel love and I wanted him to be able to feel what he wanted to feel without having to worry about me.
What I ended up doing is when the kids got home from school, I made cookies with my new sons, and we decorated them. While we made the cookies, I asked questions about their mom, and I asked them to tell me about her, “Tell me what you missed. Tell me what you remember. Tell me all about it.” What this did for me, even though it was still a little bit uncomfortable in some ways, because I was stretching myself, it helped me to get outside of my head, it helped me to access my feelings in my body and to create something that was very different than the experience I was having even earlier that day.
Now, we have now been married for four years. We’ve had several Valentine’s Days now, and you know what? It might always be a day that might be a little bit challenging, but what I’ve learned is that I can handle it. It’s not going to kill me. Whatever I’m going to make up in my head as a story, which creates certain emotions, I got it. It’s not real. It’s not permanent. I can allow it. I can allow it to move through me and it’s okay. Nothing has gone wrong. The more I have allowed myself and accepted myself to just feel what I’m going to feel, it’s amazing, the easier it is for me to move past it and to just allow it to be there without judgment, just going, “Nope, there’s nothing wrong with me. There’s nothing wrong with me. I’m just having a human experience with the human brain. It’s okay.”
My friends, I know that you listening all have circumstances that you have feelings about, right? I know that many of you have been really hurt and that you carry around some pretty heavy emotions. I want you to know that no emotion is permanent. However low you might be feeling, however hard it might be, however your heart aches right now, it is not permanent. You allowing it to be there and feeling it as deeply as you can and naming it and saying what it is is the very thing that’s going to help you move forward. It’s releasing that chemical from your body. It’s cleaning up your space. It’s making room for new feelings that you want to feel on purpose. If you can feel anything, if you get to create your emotion, what do you want to feel? What emotion do you want to fuel your life? What do you think that would be? I invite you to get really curious about your brain and about your body. I want you to think about it.
One more point is that when we get caught up in strong emotions, our brains want to make logical sense of it, and so we’ll go ’round and ’round and ’round in our brain, trying to make sense, trying to understand it. Guess what? That’s not going to happen. Drop down into your body. Slow things down. Sometimes it requires breathing and taking deep, long breaths and settling down into your body and naming what you’re feeling. Slow the process down. It gets you out of your head and into your body, which allows it to pass through. Then you can go back later and go, “Oh, it’s because I was thinking this that I felt this. Well, if I want a different result and I can have it be whatever result I want, what do I want to feel? What do I want to think?” But first, allow yourself to feel it in the first place. Make a safe place for yourself to feel, and there’s no end to what you can do. All right, that’s what I have for you today. I hope that you find this helpful, and I’ll see you next time. Bye-bye.
Thank you for listening to the Heal from Infidelity Podcast. If you would like to be kept in the know about upcoming free classes, new podcast episodes, and other ways of working with me, go subscribe to my weekly email. You can subscribe at andreagiles.com/lies-about-infidelity/. Again, it’s andreagiles.com/lies-about-infidelity/. I will see you next time.