THE SECRET TECHNIQUES TO FIGURE OUT WHAT YOU FEEL
Have you ever felt confused about what you feel? Lots of emotions all jumbled up and mixed together that in the end you just feel stuck and, as we might say (excuse my language), “crap”. The first step to make sense of what is going on with you is to figure out what you feel. Naming your emotions can bring a sense of relief and help us to gain perspective.
Here is how …
1. Find the right word
Have you ever wanted to explain something and struggled to find the right word? That moment where you have the word at the tip of your tongue but just can’t quite grasp it. It’s there and somehow you know what it is, but you just can’t say it? The person you are speaking to might try to help you find the word but until you find it, you have this uneasy sensation perhaps even feel annoyed and tense. Then when the word finally comes you have a sudden sense of relief.
It’s the same with feelings. Most of us stick with the basics when it comes to naming what we feel - good, bad, mad, sad, happy, stressed… These don’t really cover it. Did you know there are over 3000 feelings in the english language? Being able to specifically name our emotions - find the exact words for them - is extremely powerful. We actually experience a similar sense of relief when we put the right words to what we are feeling. Try it out. Don’t settle for one of the basic words, find the exact word (or words - we do often have more than one feeling at a time). We might need some help - a prompt like a friend to suggest feelings to us, a list of feelings or a tool like Feeling Magnets. Whatever works for you, just as long as you find the right words to express how you are feeling.
2. Listen to your body
Contrary to what emoticons and smileys might have brought us to believe, emotions are not just about facial expressions. We feel emotions in our bodies. Some of the most common examples include feeling our hearts racing when we are angry or feeling sick in our stomachs when we feel anxious or afraid. Think of it as if our body is speaking to us and giving us signs to help us know what we are feeling. If we pay attention to the sensations in our bodies and combine it with naming our emotions (Step 1), we uncover a powerful tool within us. Observe how you are feeling. Is your back feeling tense? Is your breath shallow and fast or deep and slow?
In mindfulness there is a practice referred to as the body scan which can help you to tune into your body and notice what you are feeling. You can start at the top of your head and slowly scan down your entire body just observing (non-judgementally) how you are feeling in every part of your body. Start to notice how your body is speaking to you. It will help you to understand yourself and know what you are feeling.
3. Be aware of your thoughts
Feelings don’t come out of the blue. They are always linked to our thoughts or what is going on in our lives. If you are still struggling to figure out what you feel, bring attention to your thoughts. In our busy lives today, most of us have thoughts whizzing through our minds at 100mph… constantly. Some thoughts are harmless, some are helpful and others might be affecting us in ways we haven’t imagined.
If we are feeling furious, anxious or ashamed, it’s pretty certain that one or more of our thoughts are playing a role in that. Take for example, we are feeling nervous in relation to an event we are planning. It’s likely that our mind is thinking through all the things that could go wrong or the possible consequences of those things that could go wrong - “what if…?” etc. To a certain extent these thoughts help us to be prepared but it’s important to keep an eye on these thoughts so they don’t end up paralizing us or having us see only the possible catastrophes.
4. Understand the Context & Your Interpretation
Our lives and what is going on around us can also trigger our emotions. Take for example if you have been working hard on a project and it got cancelled at the last minute. It is likely that the situation will trigger some emotions, whether relief, frustration, annoyance, or disappointment. The situation definitely plays a role, but our interpretation of that situation also plays a part.
In this situation, if you are feeling upset or unhappy, you might still be replaying all different versions of what happened, how it could have been avoided or even blaming someone. With this tape playing in your mind you might be feeling angry, because you think it is unfair and a waste of all the effort you put into it. You might also be feeling sad because you lost an opportunity to do something you were looking forward to doing and to reap the benefits of all your hard work.
On the other hand, if you had a different tape playing in your mind your feelings could be totally different. If you were understanding why the decision was made to cancel the project, appreciating what you learned from this project and the people you met along the way, you might still be feeling disappointed but at the same time also grateful, compassionate and peaceful.
So notice what is happening in your life that could be triggering certain emotions and then also pay attention to your thoughts so you can carefully choose which tape you want to play in your mind.
5. Surf your emotions like a pro
It takes time and practice to really master your emotions. We, at Feeling Magnets, like to see feelings as waves in an ocean. As we are wading in the ocean (living life), the waves are passing by us constantly. Sometimes the waves are smaller, sometimes they are bigger. Regardless what we do, they will come by us. The best thing (and most fun thing) we can do is learn to surf them so that we don’t get pulled under by them. The good news is we can all learn to surf our emotions if we want it enough and are willing to take the time and put in the effort to practice steps 1-4 mentioned above.
Image: Nathalie Berger Photography
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