“Trust Your Feelings” this is something we hear a lot and as a counsellor you might think I’d agree. And I do. But also, I don’t! I’ve worked with people long enough to know it’s not as straight forward as that. Life is a contradiction. So here I set out my way of working with clients (and myself!) to navigate the confusion. Hope it helps!
Emotions ‘In The Moment’
There are some things in life that happen without warning; someone dies, someone leaves, we lose a job, we get sick. These things are hard to prepare for, even when we take a cautious approach to life, even if we know someone we love is dying. Its often not until it happens that we start to feel the full emotional impact.
In these cases our emotions are raw, vivid and sometimes totally unexpected. Instead of feeling pain when someone dies you might feel anger. Instead of feeling sad when your partner leaves you might feel relief. These feelings can be part of a process (like the grief process) and change over time. Or it might be that deep down you knew the relationship was over but couldn’t face it. Either way, we feel what we feel. Its crucial at these times to give yourself the space and freedom to be with what comes up so it can be released.
Emotions From Limiting Beliefs
Then there are times we feel things in the day-to-day which can be difficult to own but have important information for us. It could be something important you want to do but when you think of it you feel overwhelmed and scared. Or your friends just told you about something great happening in her life and instead of feeling pleased you feel a twinge of jealousy. Most of us don’t want to see ourselves as scared or jealous (etc) so we try to push these feelings away by changing our behaviour. You might avoid doing what you want to do. Or when you see your friend next, you avoid talking about (and sharing in) her good fortune. Or you find yourself avoiding her completely or complaining about her to others.
In both these situations we’ve trusted the feeling and allowed it to direct our behaviour. We’ve given away our power of choice but we’ve also missed an opportunity to get to know ourselves better and release what’s holding us back. We do this through the mistaken belief that our feelings define us. That’s simply not true. Emotions are designed to come and go, just as thoughts come and go. We don’t choose every feeling we have (nor every thought) so how can they define us? What we can choose is how we act on our thoughts and feelings. That defines who we are. And I’ll show you how it looks.
Feeling scared to do something you want to do…First, you need to work out how scary it actually is and why. Is it something that’s going to cause you or someone else actual harm? Or is the fear about taking a risk? Whether its learning something new when there’s a potential we’ll fail, or standing up for yourself when you don’t know the outcome, these are just two examples of the kind of risk our minds want us to avoid. In both cases there’s a limiting belief behind the fear. Either we’re believing that safety is more important than living and/or failure is the worse thing that can happen. Worse than inaction and not living life.
Feeling jealous of another persons success…I’d be interested in the limiting belief that there’s not enough success or good fortune to go around. On some level we’ve been taught to see life as a competition – one person wins and another loses (common in our society). But I’d challenge how valid this is. Healthy self-esteem doesn’t rely on comparison to others and there is enough to go round. Whenever I experience jealousy (and I do!) I take it as vital information. The feeling is showing me there’s something I want. We can pay attention to that without getting stuck in jealousy.
Old Emotional Patterns – Working Out Past From Present
This is similar to emotions that come from limiting beliefs but is more complex. If there are unmet needs from our past they can form patterns of emotions, thoughts and actions that are less to do with the current situation and everything to do with our need to heal past hurts.
I was chatting with a friend recently and she told me something phenomenal. She realised that in the past she’d always given in to her depression (or darkness as she described it) because she thought it was wrong to ignore what she was feeling. After going round this many times in her life, she reached a point where it occurred to her she could do something else. She could make a different choice. What she’s doing is challenging the belief that she’s powerless to control her emotions and is healing the part of her that was victimised in the past. That is phenomenal.
Our old patterns can show up in many ways. We might feel suspicious of friends or partners if we’ve been hurt and betrayed in the past. We might feel we can’t cope with life without our addiction. All of these are examples of past feelings that need healing and releasing so we can be more fully present in the present. If you do this, your life and your emotions will become clearer and easier to deal with.
I write more about this in my Ebook which is coming out soon. For info on when it’s available and updates from my blog, please sign up to my newsletter below. Thanks for reading!