The first thing I learnt as a student of counselling is that feelings are real. Somehow, I seem to have missed a simple point like that all along. Like everyone else, I always thought that there was a certain way I should feel and another way I shouldn’t. I went about living my life like there was some kind of switch in there, using which any feeling that was uncomfortable, could simply be turned off. After I started working as a counsellor I realized that this is one of the most common misconceptions. This is something I found in each person to some degree- rejection of feelings. May be because it was buried in us a long time ago. As children we were told — “Don’t get angry”, “Don’t feel bad for small small things”, “There is no need to feel scared in the dark”
Doesn’t matter what exactly was said. The underlying message remains the same — “It’s not okay to feel your feelings”
Feelings are real. They are as alive as you and me. Rejecting feelings is like rejecting reality.
Has it happened sometime that you felt angry, sad, scared or jealous of someone and you told yourself that you shouldn’t feel that way? Have you experienced irritation when someone else told you to stop feeling in a certain way? These are simple examples of what I am referring to. If only it was that easy. I would have people come to me for a session. I would tell them that they should stop feeling whatever it is that they are feeling. That should do it. Obviously, it doesn’t work that way because it isn’t so straightforward. It doesn’t matter if we reject the way we feel or someone else does. Either way, it’s pointless.
What helps in a situation where you want to feel better is accepting or acknowledging the emotion. Try this out with yourself next time you feel angry or sad. Just support yourself by acknowledging its presence. Suddenly, you will start to feel better.
Our feelings happen to us, they are not chosen by us
Our feelings are a way of our subconscious mind communicating back to us about something working or not working out for us. Like indicators flashing on a dashboard. Sometimes seeking attention. Other times, just telling us that things are fine. These feelings will in turn drive our behavior (depending on whether we want more of this feeling or less of it). I’ll share more on how this translates into behavior in another post.
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