Why we do (or don't do) anything and everything.
Why do we want anything? Because of how we think the having of it will make us feel. This is true with anything. Vacations, jobs, clothes, make-up, working out, having kids, not having kids, starting a new hobby, buying that new car. Anything. It's the same reason we don't do things. We avoid activities that we think will make us feel rejected, embarrassed, uncertain, scared or uneasy, to name a few. Which is why most of us feel uncomfortable and often avoid trying new things that are way outside of our comfort zones, especially as we get older.
At this point in our human existence, our brain still thinks feeling embarrassed is akin to say the threat of death by tiger. Of course, in our logical brain we know that embarrassment does not equal death but our brains are still pretty convinced they're one in the same. Good feelings = good, bad feelings = we're all gonna die.
What are feelings, exactly? A feeling is just a sensation or a vibration in your body that starts in your brain. That's it. Our bodies are meant to process emotion but often what we do instead of just feeling the sensation is we resist our emotions, we react to our emotions, or we avoid our emotions. What does that look like?
In this analogy, the beach ball represents our feelings. I want you to imagine resisting our emotions as trying to hold a large beach ball underwater. The harder we fight to keep it underwater, the less in control of the beach ball we feel. And you know that sucker is for sure going to pop up in your face at some point, no matter how long you hold it under. Reacting to our emotions is like throwing the beach ball at someone. In the moment, depending on the emotion you're acting out, it can feel temporarily relieving but there's generally a negative consequence on the back end, just like trying to hold that beach ball underwater. Avoiding an emotion is simply covering up the beach ball with a towel. In our lives, we do this by overeating, over-drinking, over social media-ing, over Netflix-ing, over-snacking. Basically anything we can do to not feel, to go numb to our emotions. The emotion is still there, it's just under a layer of food, alcohol, phone or TV use. The problem with this is, just because we don't feel it, doesn't mean it's not there. In my experience, once you stop the numbing activity, whatever the emotion is that you were trying to avoid roars back with a vengeance, even bigger and stronger than when you felt it come on initially.
What do all three of these ways to handle emotions have in common? They all produce a negative result by creating more problems in your life. You were angry and you handled it by yelling at your spouse and now you two aren't speaking. You were sad so you ate cookies and now you have some extra weight. You were feeling shame on Sunday, so you spent the day on your phone instead of grocery shopping, cleaning, and working out. Now it's Sunday evening and you're not at all prepared for the week ahead and you're making that mean terrible things about you. Now you're feeling more shame and self-loathing.
What can we do instead? Process our emotions. Using our beach ball analogy, that simply looks like holding the beach ball out in front of you. Now, it might feel a little uncomfortable. But if you allow your emotions they do fade away. And you'll notice that even the most uncomfortable emotions aren't a problem if you process them and feel them. Once you truly know this, you won't be in a rush to get rid of your negative emotions. The best way I know how to do this is to label the emotion and simply describe how it feels in my body.
For example, to me, fear feels like a tightness in my stomach, my hands start to sweat, my heart beats pretty fast, and the thoughts in my brain seem to be moving quickly. I have a hard time focusing as well. That's it. That's fear. I'll keep repeating that to myself. And then I try to feel it more, by opening myself up to it and inviting it in. It cannot hurt you. It's just a vibration in your body. It's the same process with any emotion. I find that some tend to stick around longer than others. Like anxiety. If I notice it's there I'll go through the process of labeling it, describing it, and opening myself up to it. Sometimes it sticks around and I just tell myself, ok, I guess anxiety is coming along for the ride today. No problem.
Finally, why do all of this? Lots of reasons. The biggest to me, aside from eliminating a whole lot of extra negative consequences that come from resisting, reacting, and avoiding our emotions - is it allows me to live a bigger life. Try new things. Have different experiences. Go after my goals and my big dreams. That's why. If I'm willing to feel any emotion, there's nothing I won't go after.
If this has been helpful, and you want to take this work to a deeper level, schedule a free consultation and we can chat about to use this work to fully transform your life.
Thanks for reading!