Beginning to Talk about Feelings
Feelings are natural reactions. Just like hunger or thirst, if we didn’t need them our bodies wouldn’t do all the physical/hormonal parts so effectively, consistently or universally.
Like hunger or thirst, our feelings are offering us information. Think of this information system as an old-fashioned ‘dashboard’ telling you, in a pre-historic, chemical way, what’s happening.
Getting by without doing a lot of ‘feeling’ is possible but you could be missing useful information.
‘Talking Feelings’ is passing on this information to someone else
‘Naming’ feelings, getting a language for the feelings you are able to contact, is a good way to begin. If people hadn’t had lots of feelings over the millennia we wouldn’t have so many words like ‘hurt’, ‘frustrated’, ‘excited’…
Start by naming the somatic feelings you have as they arise – hungry, tired…
When the feelings arise, can you say the words e.g. “I feel hungry” or “I feel tired” to yourself? What’s it like when you say that to yourself?
How about saying your feelings out loud, maybe into the mirror, or to someone else? When you say “I feel really tired”, you’ve just passed some information about yourself to someone else.
When the feelings arise, can you say the words “I feel sad” or “I feel frustrated” to yourself? What’s it like to say that to yourself? Again this is information about how you’re reacting to the circumstances you find yourself in.
How about saying your feelings out loud, maybe into the mirror, or to someone else? When you say “I feel a little sad today” you may experience a ‘kick back’, a sense of shame or dread at having said this to another. Perhaps there is a sense of ‘being weak’ or a sense of some risk about ‘where all this might lead’. These secondary feelings are simply more feelings arising in The River of Feelings. Observe them and treat them gently. And if expressing your feelings like this seems too uncomfortable, go back to your old ways for a while.
It may be tempting to use expressions that keep a distance between you and your feelings like “This makes me tired” or “It’s a sad film” rather than “I feel tired”, “I feel sad.”
When you say ‘a sad film’ you’re saying that the film has invited sadness in you and you feel sad. Remember, saying “I feel sad watching this film…” is giving some information about yourself. You’re not inviting anyone to fix your sadness, or saying you want to switch off the film. And it’s OK to give that information.
What you might be noticing is that none of this has hurt you. None of it has hurt anyone. You may have noticed that all this is quite safe.
Getting support with feelings
Remember that everyone is different and any self-help process can only offer ideas in general terms. It may be that ‘dealing with feelings’, especially uncomfortable ones, means working with someone who is qualified to support you.
Why not book an initial assessment session with a counsellor/therapist who is registered with a nationally recognised professional body (such as BACP or UKCP in the UK)?