Dealing with Uncomfortable Feelings
We’ve been socialized around feelings, we have learned to love the “good” stuff and hate the “bad” stuff. So it makes sense that most of us aren’t very good at dealing with uncomfortable feelings! Uncomfortable feelings are like beachballs that you try to keep under the water. They are tenacious, and the more you try to push them down, the more force they have when they pop up and smack you in the face and leave you with a nose full of water.
It’s important to know that emotions are actually, amazingly functional. Especially the hard ones, like disappointment, fear, and pain. They are mini compasses, shining light on what we need to do to take care of ourselves.
- SADNESS tells us to slow down and to take care of ourselves when there is a loss
- ANGER reminds us to take action if someone is mistreating us or if there is injustice
- ANXIETY makes us aware of potential danger
- FEAR alerts us to, and protects us from, immediate danger
- GUILT points us toward making amends and setting something right
- JOY helps us to relish the moment and release some energy
Often, we just don’t want to go the direction our emotions are pointing us. Have you noticed this?
Let’s say you’re sad. Instead of allowing the sadness in, you might blow past it and use work as a distraction or have 3 glasses of wine at night instead of your regular 1 (… ok, 1 & 1/2). Or, you have anxiety about an upcoming trip, and instead of it pointing you toward preparedness, it might lock you into a vicious loop of obsessiveness or avoidance.
EXERCISES TO HELP GUIDE YOU
What’s a better way to deal with this scenario? Over my next couple of blog posts I’ll share some exercises that will guide you towards getter better at following your emotions, so that they lead you in a helpful direction. Of course, most helpful things come in the form of an anagram, otherwise, how the hell would we remember anything?
The first one, RAIN, deals directly with the awful, critical voice (aka The Bully) that often accompanies negative feelings and experiences:
RAIN, by Tara Brach
- Recognize: listening in a kind and receptive way to what is happening in your inner life
- Accept and Allow: letting life be just as it is, “letting be” thoughts, emotions and sensations
- Investigate: engaging in active and pointed inquiry of inner experience with kindness
- Non-Identification: noticing that you are not defined by limited sets of emotions or stories
So, let’s practice with the following scenario: someone you really like texted you to cancel just hours before meeting for your 2nd date.
- Recognize: I’m really disappointed and sad. Anxious that they doesn’t like me and that’s why they cancelled. Ack, and vaguely humiliated. Shit, this SUCKS. I’m really feeling sorry for myself.
- Accept & Allow: Ok, I’m going to be quiet for a moment. Just allow myself to feel it all and breathe into it, instead of turning away. Wow, this is really uncomfortable. My chest is tight, and my eyes are stinging. I’m so disappointed. Ok, there’s anger at what an asshole they are for canceling so last minute. I must really be pathetic if they bailed on a second date.
- Investigate: It really makes sense that I am sad. It’s not fun to get canceled on and I was really looking forward to tonight. I was excited about our chemistry and my hopes were up that it would be a good fit. I’ve really been lonely and now I have to sit with the fear of being alone again instead of being swept up in the excitement and potential of someone new. Yup, afraid of being alone.
- Non-Identification: Well, just because I am having intense feelings of loneliness doesn’t mean I will be alone for the rest of my life. There will be other dates. Intense feelings come and go, I know that they pass, because they always do. I don’t need to hold on to the “I’m so pathetic” story. Just because I feel pathetic doesn’t mean that I am pathetic. I can keep reminding myself of that.
Ok, now you give it a try with something that happened to you recently. And stay tuned for my next blog entry for the 2nd exercise!
Jen is a therapist in Minneapolis MN who helps women who mostly have their shit together but can’t figure our the relationship thing. She loves doing the deep work that actually makes a difference! Click here to make an appointment firstname.lastname@example.org.