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How to Acknowledge, Feel, & Process Difficult Feelings

Here is what I know:

  1. our emotions serve a purpose, and we can only realize and benefit from that purpose when we stop resisting our emotions and decide to feel them instead.

  2. the emotions we resist/try to distract away from because we’re afraid of feeling them are the ones that have the most to teach us and gift to us in the form of growth and guidance in how to become who we truly truly want to be/how to live the life we really want to live. This is such incredible news. There’s something magical and amazing waiting for us at the end of the painful process of really *feeling*.

  3. we’re never “done“ feeling a feeling, we never get to a point where we’ve felt something “enough“ to just never have to feel it ever again/so that it never comes up again. If you’re attempting to feel a feeling in the hopes that you will thereby be able to escape experiencing it ever again, you’ll learn that that’s not how feelings work. Sorry not sorry. This is actually good news, I promise. You will learn more and grow more each time an emotion circles around for you to feel it again.

So how do we go about feeling, processing, and releasing our feelings?

I like the numbers tonight, so we’ll do another 3-step thing:

  1. First, we name the feeling. If you’ve never really spent intentional time on feeling your feelings before, there are resources online that list out tons of feelings that you can reference in order to start identifying and naming your feelings.

  2. Second, we take some deep breaths and describe the way that this emotion feels in our body. Often times my clients will say “this emotion of frustration feels like I can’t move forward in this situation“. This is a thought, this is not a feeling. When I ask them to describe the emotion in their body, they might say “ohhh okay….I get it. this emotion of frustration feels like a tightness in my chest, a little bit of heat in my face and hands, a little shortness of breath.“ Really breathe, come into your body, and FEEL what the emotion feels like. Tell yourself in that moment that you are fully capable of feeling this emotion and feeling the sensations that it creates in your body. Yes, it might be scary, yes, it might be uncomfortable, but it cannot hurt you. You can let this emotion express itself and you can feel this emotion fully without putting yourself in danger. A lot of my clients are afraid that allowing an emotion will mean that it will take over and never leave. This is the opposite of what happens when you allow an emotion—check out #3 for how this works.

  3. Lastly, we process and release the emotion and allow space for it to come up again, without judging ourselves for feeling something that we think we’ve “already felt and shouldn’t have to feel again“. We process the emotion by breathing through the physical sensations that it creates in our body as described in #2 and accepting that it is present for us in that moment. We don’t try to resist or tighten up against it, we don’t try to convince ourselves away from feeling it, we don’t try to think thoughts that take us out of that emotion. We sit in it, we breathe through it, we accept it, and we eventually release it, being fully willing to feel it again if/when that is necessary.

This process serves a couple of purposes: it builds our trust with ourselves, and it builds our confidence. When you allow and process an emotion fully, you prove to yourself that you are a safe space for feeling any emotion that comes up. No punishment, no judgment, just quiet compassion and allowance and safety to be vulnerable. You also prove to yourself that you can handle any situation because you know that you can handle any situation. You gain confidence when you realize that the worst thing about anything we’re afraid of is the emotions we’re afraid of feeling in those scenarios, and when you know that you are capable of feeling any emotion that you could possibly feel, no matter how scary or painful. You know this process now. You can get through anything. So you can go out and live your life without apprehension.

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