The #1 Mistake People Make Emotionally Everyday!

To begin with, let's take a look at emotions.

What is an emotion? It's a feeling. Like all feelings, it is going to be centered somewhere in your body. And, like all feelings, we generally work hard to hold onto emotions we like and avoid the ones we don't like, right?

Now, let's look at these favorite emotions of ours for a moment. What feelings do you like and try to have as often as possible?

The feelings I like to have often are

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Some common answers are:

Happiness

Excitement

Enthusiasm

Contentment

Love

Awe

Inspiration

Reverence

Celebration

lust

 

Now, let's look at the opposite side. Which feelings do you dislike and try to avoid?

 

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Again, some common answers are:

Anger

Sadness

Worry

Fear

Rage

Anxiety

Boredom

Stress

Shame

Embarrassment

Humiliation

Depression

Guilt

 

Now, what do we do with feelings we don't like? (Okay, now we're beginning to get somewhere!)

If you don't like something, whether its Difficult Emotions or Lima Beans or Horror Movies, you will try to avoid it.

 

The interesting thing to consider for a moment is this: What do you personally do to try to avoid your negative emotions?

What do we do to avoid or resist our negative emotions? Go ahead, take a moment now and think about what you do to get rid of your negative feelings. The kind of things I do to stop feeling bad is:

 

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Review this list of common answers and see if there are any youíd like to add to your list:

Go for walk

Drugs

Music

Call a friend

Play games/sports

Alcohol

Get busy doing something else

Eat

Party

Garden

Watch tv

 

When you look at it, there are only three basic ways we human beings have figured out to deal with difficult emotions. The first way is that we

1. ANESTHETIZE.

If you eat enough chocolate ice cream and junk food, you soon won't feel anything but kind of a sugar coma/sleepiness. Food is one of the most common tools used for anesthetizing feelings.

 

How many of us have used doughnuts or chocolate cake or ice cream to narcotize our feelings? Your home alone on a Friday evening, feeling lonely, so whatís to do? Eat a bunch of junk food!

 

A higher level of anetsthetizing feelings is to drink or do drugs. A few margaritas or a few joints and we sure ainít feelin no pain!

The problem with anesthetizing feelings is that when the food or sugar coma or drugs or drinking wears off, the feeling seems to "come back" or you feel even worse.

So what you then want to do is eat more or drink more or do more drugs. It becomes a vicious cycle. And, as we'll soon see, I'd like to suggest that when you anesthetize your feelings you aren't making them disappear, they just go below the surface for a while then come back up.

 

2. ACTING OUT.

A second way we all deal with difficult emotions is to project them onto others, to dump them onto the people around us. It's also called ACTING OUT.

How many of us have ever had a parent do something like this?

They come home from work, maybe they've had a bad day, and they say:

"GET YOUR SORRY ASS OFF THAT COUCH AND TURN OFF THE TV AND GO GET YOUR DAMN CHORES DONE!"

Raise your hands, how many of you have had a parent or seen a friend's parent do that?

Okay, good, now how many of you as parents or adults have done something similar?

Another way of ACTING OUT is if you're sad or depressed and a co-worker who is in a good mood comes up to you and you demand:

"WHAT ARE YOU SO HAPPY ABOUT? You messed on up on page 3, 6 and 8 of the report and it needs to be fixed NOW!"

How many of us have ever seen anyone do that to another person? Or we punch the wall or kick the dog or throw something. These are all ways of trying to get the feeling away from us. We all have a tendency to project our unpleasant feelings to those around us.

What do you think of this way of dealing with difficult emotions? What do you think of acting out and projecting as a way of coping? So where most anesthetizing behaviors damages our bodies, projecting and acting out damages our relationships in life. Kinda like "misery loves company." Not very healthy or very kind, is it?

3. CHANGE THE CHANNEL

The third way human beings have to deal with difficult emotions is to CHANGE THE CHANNEL, kind of like go from an AM radio station to an FM radio station. Going for a walk, playing sports or games, gardening, putting on some music you love, getting lost in work or a project are ways that we all already know to deal with difficult emotions.

You should have a few favorite ways of changing your emotional channel, like taking a bubble bath or dancing. Please think for a moment and list your preferred way of changing channels:

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This third method of dealing with "bad" emotions is good! These are generally healthy ways of dealing with difficult emotions. They don't damage our bodies, like with anesthetizing behaviors, and they don't damage our relationships, like with projecting our feelings onto others.

PART II: THE HEART OF THE SKILL

Now we donít want to take away from the healthy ways you have of changing your emotional channel, but we want to introduce a new skill for dealing with difficult emotions, we want you to try this on and add this to your tool kit.

To understand this new way of dealing with emotions, you first have to learn A UNIVERSAL LAW, a kind of rule about how things work in the universe.

You have to do a 10 second exercise to learn this universal law. Now, when you do this exercise you have to really get into it, so you can learn this universal law for yourself.

Ready? (Read through this once to get the idea, then take the 10 seconds to actually do it.)

HOLD UP YOUR LEFT HAND IN FRONT OF YOUR FACE. NOW GRAB YOUR LEFT WRIST WITH YOUR RIGHT HAND.

THEN I WANT YOU TO RESIST YOUR LEFT HAND WITH YOUR RIGHT HAND. WITH YOUR LEFT HAND TRY TO TOUCH YOUR FACE AND WITH YOUR RIGHT HAND TRY TO KEEP YOUR LEFT HAND AWAY FROM YOUR FACE.

GOT IT? OKAY, FOR 10 SECONDS REALLY GET INTO IT, GO!

Okay, so now let's see if we can figure out what universal law we just demonstrated.

When you resist something, what happens?

When you resisted your left hand, what happened to your awareness of it?

YOUR LEFT HAND GOT "BIGGER" IN YOUR AWARENESS. It became very noticeable.

Now let's say that your left hand was an emotion like sadness, and your right hand was just you resisting that sadness internally, trying not to feel it. And instead of for ten seconds, it was for ten hours, days or months!

Resistance causes the feeling to do what?

RESISTANCE CAUSES PERSISTANCE!

Can you begin to see that?

If you're feeling a difficult emotion and you start to resist it, what will happen?

It will get bigger & it will last longer!!

Now what was true about your left hand before the exercise?

It was just there, you didn't even think about it, no big deal.

And as soon as you stopped resisting it and started reading about resistance causes persistence, what happened to your left hand?

It went back to being no big deal! Itís just there.

It disappeared from your awareness, didn't it?

Because the universal law is always working, and that is if you resist something it persists, and if you don't resist something it doesn't persist and will disappear!

So let's look at the emotions you listed earlier. We've got the good ones and the bad ones. Now here's what's true about being a human being:

Human beings have emotional bodies. Your emotional body is going to feel all of these feelings, not just the good ones.

YOUR EMOTIONAL BODY WILL FEEL ANGER, SADNESS, HAPPINESS, EXCITEMENT, JOY, FEAR, WORRY.

That's what the emotional bodies of human beings do.

Try on this idea:

YOU CAN'T CUT OFF THE BAD ONES AND ONLY HAVE THE GOOD ONES. WHEN YOU CUT OFF THE BAD ONES YOU SHUT DOWN OR SUPPRESS YOUR EMOTIONAL BODY.

EMOTIONS AREN'T GOOD OR BAD, THEY JUST ARE.

Not only that, our emotions often contain lessons

for us, they are communications.

Take the story of Bob and Sue:

Sue broke up with Bob because Bob didn't treat her very well. So what Bob does instead of feel the sadness and the pain of the loss of that relationship, he anesthetizes the feeling by going to bars and drinking and trying to pick up women. He can't stand being alone at night in the house all by himself so every night he goes to a bar and drinks and meets women until he starts another relationship.

Now if Bob had allowed himself to feel that sadness, he might have realized that he didn't treat Sue very well. That sadness, that emotional pain, might have caused Bob to learn to treat women better.

But instead, by avoiding the loneliness and the sadness and just picking another woman up at a bar, he will likely repeat the same problems he had with Sue and lose this relationship as well. And that's exactly what Bob did. After six months this woman dumped him as well.

Do you see how by anesthetizing the pain rather than feeling it he missed an opportunity and doomed himself to repeating the pattern? Supposedly painful feelings, when we allow them, can inform and change us. Sadness, fear, anger can add to who we are and who we are becoming. Sometimes (not always!) our "bad" feelings have "messages" we simply need to dwell on for a few minutes to "hear" what they are saying. And in the listening we get added to, we become more whole.

Good feelings, on the other hand, usually tell us we're on the right track.

If you're playing sports and you feel happy and excited, you feel good. Your emotions are telling you that you're on the right track, doing something that is right for you.

If you're dancing in your living room with the music turned up loud or you're singing in the shower and you feel joyous, you're emotional body is telling you that you are on the right track, doing something that is right for you.

But when you feel angry or sad or depressed or afraid, your emotional body is trying to tell you something else.

If you feel angry about something, say someone disrespected you, your emotional body is trying to say something like "Don't let that happen to you again!" The anger helps you to focus on what you don't want in your life.

If you feel sad because you argued with a friend, that emotion might be trying to tell you to learn from that, to try not to argue or fight in your relationships. The sadness can help you to learn.

If you feel depressed, that depression might be trying to tell you that something's missing in your life or that something is out of balance and needs to be addressed. The heavy depressed feelings can help you to make life changes.

If you feel afraid your fear might be telling you you need to watch your well being, what you're doing or thinking of doing might not be safe, or you might not have a skill for what you're about to doÖ

BUT IF YOU RESIST THE DIFFICULT EMOTION, YOU WON'T GET THE MESSAGE OR LEARN THE LESSON.

EMOTIONS ARE NOT GOOD OR BAD! They are just part of your emotional body that can guide and support you in life.

Pain is neither good or bad, it's just a communication that something's happening that you may want to change. Consider this again for a moment:

PAINFUL FEELINGS ARE NEITHER GOOD NOR BAD!

 

Look! If you're having headaches a lot, you can anesthetize the pain by taking aspirin, right?

But what if you're getting headaches because you're constipated? Or because you need glasses?

THE PAIN ISN'T BAD, IT'S A COMMUNICATION.

If you're the one having the headaches, you're the one who has to listen to the pain and figure out what it's telling you.

PAINFUL EMOTIONS AREN'T BAD, THEY ARE GUIDES IN LIFE.

So if you have a lot of anger in your life you can avoid it by kicking the dog and getting into fights, or you can start to look at what the anger is about and what it might be telling your about your life.

When you resist and try not to feel difficult emotions, you can get away with it, but you'll probably miss the message and only cause the feeling to keep coming back!

We're not saying that sadness means this and anger means that and depression means thatÖ

What we're suggesting is that you are a human being and you have a physical body and a mental body and an emotional body and just like pain in your physical body can teach you not to touch a hot burner on a stove, pain in your emotional body can be a message as well.

 

NOW, PAINFUL EMOTIONS DON'T ALWAYS HAVE MESSAGES

And you don't have to figure them out or do analysis. Sometimes, they are just negative patterns and habits we get into!

IF YOU ALWAYS GO AROUND THINKING DEPRESSING THOUGHTS, YOU'RE GOING TO BE DEPRESSED!

If you always go around blaming others for your problems, you're going to be angry a lot or feel like a victim a lot. But thatís an issue for a different lesson.

The Skill of Integrating Feelings

For now, weíve come to a fourth way to deal with difficult emotions, and that is to Integrate them. How do you integrate a feeling?

You begin to integrate feelings when you actually feel your difficult feelings, when you allow them and notice what part of your body they are centered in. Itís as "simple" (once you get practiced at it) as:

"Iím angry and it feels like a burning in my jaws and tightness in my neck and shoulders."

"Iím sad and it feels like a heaviness in my gut."

"Iím afraid and it feels like a bowling ball in my stomach and my knees feel weakÖ"

When you actually feel your difficult feelings, you will notice that generally they are located somewhere specific in your body.

They will become part of you. Like your left hand not resisted, they will simply be there.

Sometimes you are sad. Sometimes you are angry. Sometimes you are afraid. When you can let these feelings be there in your body just as they are, you can learn from them, you can be added to and enhanced by them, you can become more than you were before.

Whatís that you say? You already feel your feelings?

Actually, rather than just feel our feelings, most of us conceptualize them "I feel awful", or wallow in them "woe is me," or suppress them "Iím not going to feel bad!" None of us were taught in school the simple skill of locating where in your body theyíre centered and how they feel ("bowling ball in my gut").

For the purposes of this course, we say that you only truly feel your feelings when you locate where specifically in your body they are centered, and how specifically they feel (tight, hot, heavy, empty, crushing, etc.)

In the exercises below you will take some simple steps to actually begin to feel your feelings and integrate them. Try it, youíll like it!

PART III: THE EXERCISES SO YOU CAN BEGIN TO PRACTICE THE SKILL

Now we're going to do some exercises so you can begin to practice feeling your feelings rather than resisting them. JUST TRY THESE EXERCISES OUT AND TAKE WHAT YOU GET. There is no "right answer" to get in any of these exercises. Whatever answers come up for you are the "right" answers!

 

EXERCISE ONE: SADNESS

To do this exercise correctly, remember that Sadness is neither good nor bad. Even so, if you are a human being, you have a history of resisting the heck out of it. For this exercise, try to look at your sad feelings calmly. Take a few minutes and complete this phrase again and again:

Sometimes I feel sad when __________________.

Sometimes I feel sad when __________________.

Sometimes I feel sad when __________________.

Sometimes I feel sad when __________________.

Sometimes I feel sad when __________________.

Sometimes I feel sad when __________________.

 

Keep struggling with this, keep looking at where you feel sadÖ The point is to get that we all feel sad at times about various things. This exercise is simply to note some of the places where you feel sad.

Sadness is okay!

See if you can notice these sadness areas without judgement or avoidance. It is okay to feel sad sometimes when you watch the news on tv, its very human. It's okay to feel sadness where ever you feel it. Begin to notice that sadness is part of your emotional repertoire. Allow it.

Now, think back to a few of those sad feelings and observe where in your body sadness seems to be located and what it feels like. For example, Sadness for me seems to be located in my belly area and in my jaws, and it feels like a heavy weight in my gut and a slack emptiness in my jaws.

Sadness seems to be located in my _________ area and it feels like ____________.

 

EXERCISE TWO: ANGER

Sometimes I feel angry when ________________.

Sometimes I feel angry when ________________.

Sometimes I feel angry when ________________.

Sometimes I feel angry when ________________.

Sometimes I feel angry when ________________.

Sometimes I feel angry when ________________.

 

This exercise is simply to note some of the places where you feel angry. See if you can notice these angry areas without judgement or avoidance. It is okay to feel angry sometimes when you watch the news on tv, its very human. It's okay to feel anger whereever you feel it. Begin to notice that anger is part of your emotional repertoire. Allow it. Appreciate it some.

Now, think back to a few of those angry feelings and observe where in your body anger seems to be located and what it feels like. For example, Anger for me seems to be located in my facial area and in my gut, and it feels like a tightness in my gut and a burning and tightness in my face and jaws.

For now, just get a sense of where anger seems to reside in your body and what it feels like. Feelings are always going to be located somewhere in your body.

Anger seems to be located in my _________ area and it feels like ____________.

Question: How do you recognize the difference between anger and sadness in your feelings?

Answer: Because they feel different ways in different parts of your body!

 

 

 

EXERCISE THREE: FEAR

Sometimes I feel afraid when ________________.

Sometimes I feel afraid when ________________.

Sometimes I feel afraid when ________________.

Sometimes I feel afraid when ________________.

Sometimes I feel afraid when ________________.

Fear seems to be located in my _________ area and it feels like ____________.

 

 

EXERCISE FOUR: ACKNOWLEDGING RESISTANCE

When I feel sad, sometimes what I do to deal with it is _________________.

Another things I sometimes do to deal with sadness is _________________.

When I feel angry, sometimes what I do to deal with it is _________________.

Another things I sometimes do to deal with anger is _________________.

 

When I feel fear, sometimes what I do to deal with it is _________________.

Another thing I sometimes do to deal with fear is _________________.

 

 

Notice that when you take the negative labels and judgements off your feelings, you can begin to simply have them or allow them and that they feel certain ways physically. This is an ENTIRELY different approach to resisting them, avoiding them, and doing your best to project or anesthetize them.

 

PRACTICAL MAGIC: HOW TO MAKE FEELINGS DISAPPEAR!

Now we come to the final part of this new skill on how to deal with difficult emotions.

WHEN YOU DON'T RESIST THEM, EMOTIONS COME AND GO. KIND OF LIKE WAVES ON THE SEASHORE, OR THE WEATHER IN COLORADO.

If you are sad because a relationship broke up, and you don't resist that sadness, after a while that sadness will disappear.

If you are in a rage and really angry at a friend, you can't stay at a peak of rage for very long. After a day or two whatever you were so angry about will lose its charge.

But we all have a basic subconscious fear that if we let ourselves really feel sad or really feel afraid that we will get lost in it, that we will get stuck and feel that way forever.

"oh, woe is meÖ" and we're afraid we'll get even sadder and more miserable.

But as we've been suggesting, if you can stop resisting your feelings and start letting them just be there the way that they are, they will disappear or lose their charge just like when you don't resist your left hand it isn't a problem.

So when you feel your difficult feelings for just a few minutes, they will begin to shift and integrate and disappear.

TO HELP YOURSELF TO FEEL YOUR FEELINGS FULLY, WHAT YOU CAN DO IS NOTICE WHERE FEELINGS ARE LOCATED IN YOUR BODY.

SO, AS WE'VE DISCUSSED, IF YOU FEEL FEAR, FOR EXAMPLE, YOU MIGHT FEEL IT AS A WEIGHT LIKE A BOWLING BALL IN YOUR GUT.

Or maybe like a tightness in your chest and inability to breathe.

BUT WHATEVER THE FEELING IS, IT WILL GENERALLY BE LOCATED SOME PARTICULAR PLACES IN YOUR BODY.

HOW DO YOU KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HAPPINESS AND ANGER? BECAUSE ANGER FEELS ONE WAY IN YOUR BODY, AND HAPPINESS FEELS ANOTHER WAY.

And when you can locate where the feeling is in your body, as close as possible, and then allow yourself to feel that bowling ball in your gut or tightness in your chest rather than try not to feel it, it will begin to dissolve and integrate and lose its charge.

YOU HAVE TO TRY THIS OUT TO UNDERSTAND IT. It's all gobbledygook until you experience it. We are all set to try to resist our negative feelings. We want to make them go away by resisting the heck out of them. We try to ignore the fear, the feeling of a bowling ball in our gut, to make it go away.

THIS IS EXACTLY THE "WRONG" WAY TO DEAL WITH BAD FEELINGS. As you discovered when you resisted your left hand, what you resist gets bigger. To make feelings "disappear" you have to have the courage to feel them. Just for a few minutes. That's all it usually takes to begin to transform and shift most feelings.

For just a few minutes, you have to do THE EXACT OPPOSITE of what feels "natural." For just a few minutes for the next week, each day when you feel a "negative" emotion relax for a few minutes and simply allow it. Stop judging it, stop beating yourself or others up for it, simply acknowledge it (i.e. "I feel angry right now!") and then notice where in your body it is located. If it feels like a bowling ball in your gut, feel that. Don't think about it, just explore the feeling for a few minutes.

Then see what happens. Does it shift? Do you feel more relaxed? Does it get worse? There isn't any right thing for the feeling to do, but it will shift. Feelings you don't resist begin to INTEGRATE, they become simply a part of your experience, as they are not resisted they lose much of their power.

Kinda like "Oh, I just saw two people kissing, and I thought of my recent breakup, and I feel somehow ashamed and lonely and sad all wrapped up in one."

When you feel that feeling, allow it, explore it for just a few moments, it will begin to transform and integrate. Sometimes you as a human being will feel somehow ashamed and lonely and sad all together, that's just the way it is. Just like you have a left hand, sometimes you will be aware of feelings like that. When you don't resist them, when you stop trying to positive think them and/or argue with them in your head, they move from the shadows of your psyche to become part of your strength.

 

EXERCISE SEVEN: EMOTING YOUR EMOTIONS

Now, to put this all together for yourself, do this simple exercise. Read the instructions through a few times to familiarize yourself with them. Then close your eyes and start. (Feel free to open them and refresh your memory on what to do as often as necessary!)

Close your eyes and take a deep, relaxing breath. Recall a time you felt angry recently. Picture that situation in your head. What was happening? Who was doing or saying what?

Good. Now, step into that feeling a bit. Allow yourself to feel that feeling again.

Good. Now, notice where in your body the anger is located. Does it feel like a bowling ball in your gut? Does it feel like heat and flushing around your head? Does it feel like tension across your upper body? Tightness in your jaw?

See if you can notice the places where the anger is located in your body. It might be one place, like your gut, or a few places, like your jaw and your chest. It might be one feeling, like heat around your head and upper body, or it might be a few feelings like heat and tightness in your jaw.

See if you can notice where the anger is located in your body.

Good. Now, just let that feeling be there. Just notice it and allow it to be there.

Good. Now, PUT that feeling there. HAVE THAT FEELING BE THERE. If its heat, put that heat there! If it is tension in your jaw, put that tension there.

Good. Now, take a moment and emote that emotion! RADIATE THAT FEELING OUT INTO YOUR SPACE! Whatever that means to you, radiate the feeling or emote it. Give it out to the world around you. Do this for ten seconds!

Good. Now, take a deep breath and relax as you breathe out.

Good. Now, take another deep breath and relax as your breathe out.

Okay. Now open your eyes!

How was that for you?

Summary. That's it for the basics of dealing with difficult emotions and feeling your feelings.

Integrating difficult feelings is one of the most powerful things you can do in the journey of life. Instead of striving ceaselessly to change the outside world so that you never feel bad, you can now begin to strive to allow the full range of your inner feelings, integrating rather than suppressing them only to have them recur again and again.

When you can actually feel a specific feeling in a specific body location for just (usually) a minute or two, it will shift.

It will either get better or worse!

If it gets worse, explore for a few minutes longer then change the channel. If it gets "better," it has begun to integrate. If you are sad and you do the above exercise, weíre not saying youíll all of a sudden be happy. You may just feel more somber. If your sadness "shifts" to sobriety then it has integrated, or begun to integrate. It has begun to become an accepted aspect of your emotional makeup. Over time, sadness, fear, rage, shame can all be integrated. It may not happen the first time you do this process, but it will happen and begin in fairly short order.

Keep working with difficult feelings until you feel a shift towards acceptance and peace. Thatís a sign of integration.

When you can feel your feelings instead of resist them, you can begin to learn the lessons they may offer and you can begin to make them "disappear," just like your left hand disappears when you aren't resisting it, its just there.

We suggest you take baby steps with this skill and practice it every day next week with different feelings that come up.

Don't wallow in your feelings! We aren't saying if you feel sad to dive in and start seeing the whole world through crap colored glasses. Just take a few minutes to locate the feeling in your body and put it there, have it be there.

Notice if the feeling is about anything, relationship or job issue or an unpleasant experience, and see if the feeling suggests you change some behavior or whatever. But then just put the feeling there where its located in your body and let it be there.

Don't wallow. Just explore it for a few minutes then go on with your life.

You don't have to get to the bottom of it or have some big realization or anything. Just feel it for a few minutes then let it go and get on with what's next in your life.

And as with all skills, this skill takes practice. Every day, different feelings come up, see if you can begin to work with them for a few minutes a day in this way and see what happens.

Over time, you'll notice a shift from resisting feelings to exploring them and honoring them!

When you can allow yourself to feel the way you feel, when you stop running from some feelings, you can just relax and let your emotional body help you through life rather than stop you.

This is a very basic and important emotional skill. We call it FEEL YOUR FEELINGS, Integration, or EMOTIONAL APPRECIATION. When you can begin to feel your feelings instead of anesthetize or project, you can begin to integrate and strengthen your entire emotional body.

Feelings are a process. Enjoy the flow!

THE NUMBER ONE EMOTIONAL SKILL

 

Feeling your feelings is a way of telling the truth to yourself. Tell the truth, acknowledge what you really feel, and then feel where that is located in your body. You will feel more whole, more centered, less split and scattered or caught up in useless anger or worry about people "out there."

This skill truly is one of the deepest, healthiest and most transformative emotional talents you can ever develop. Learn it, practice it, share it with friends, it'll give you a warm fuzzy most every time. Simply follow the bouncing ball and you'll master this in almost no time!

And remember, it is just the first, most basic emotional skill. There are many other powerful emotional skills to come, but they all build off of this one. Enjoy!