One Thing You Can Do to Diffuse Your Difficult Feelings

Feelings are everywhere -- be gentle. J MasaiDo you get that tight clenchy feeling at the base of your ribs in a new situation? Or maybe you get that lead ball in the pit of your stomach when you are afraid.

Is the feeling accompanied by rational or irrational thoughts telling you not to do something?

All of us have these thoughts and feelings at one time or another. Some of us manage to set them aside and carry on, but some of us let them take over and shut us down. We let them keep us from trying new things, going after our dreams or just moving on from where we are now.

So how do we get rid of the voices in our head and tight clench feelings in our chest?

We don’t.

These thoughts and feelings are coming from the deepest most primal parts of our brain, so I doubt we’ll ever get rid of them. However, we can learn to recognize them for what they are, reduce their sting, and get comfortable with them.

Cuddle Up with Your Fears and Talk to Them

One of my favourite ways to pull the paralyzing stinger from fearful thoughts is to recognize them and welcome them.

When I start feeling the familiar lead weight in my chest or when the self-defeating thoughts and fears creep into my head, I address them head on… and talk to them.

In my head I say, “Oh there you are fear. I haven’t seen you in a while.” (Substitute pain, worry, anxiety, self-doubt, crappy thought. Whatever works for you.)

And yah, sometimes I’m saying, “Hey there fear, I haven’t seen you in a three minutes.”

While I am talking to the feeling, I picture it as a harmless, and oh so cute and fluffy animal that I am cuddling in my hands and carefully protecting it from the big bad world.

Sit with the Feeling and Enjoy Its Company

Once you’ve made the feeling welcome, sit with it in companionable silence.  Focus on feeling the physical sensations associated with the thought or emotion. Pay attention to the thoughts going through your head. Try not to judge, just observe.

Notice how the feeling changes (if it does) when it gets more intense or less intense.  Just pay attention.

Silly?

Yup. But it works. The feeling eventually dies down, and over time you get used to the feeling. You recognize it but it doesn’t have the same power over you.

Try it.

I dare you.

Why I Talk to My Feelings

Did you notice that I address my thoughts and feelings as separate from myself?

I very consciously acknowledge the existence of the thought or feeling. But I also separate myself from it, make it less a part of me.  I try to acknowledge it rather than burying it, but at the same time put some distance between the thought or emotion and myself. I give myself some breathing room and don’t let the feeling take over.

I also notice when the feeling  goes away. It always does. I can’t focus on the thought or feeling for all that long before my mind starts to wander and wonder whether there are any Oreos in the cupboard, or when the kids’ next orthodontist appointment is.

Talking to your feelings this way seems like a really silly thing to do, but who cares. No one else has to know. (Unless you decide to write an article about it.) and it can’t be any worse than reacting with, “Ahh geez, why can’t I let this go and just get over it. I must be the biggest idiot there is.”

Pay Attention to How You Address These Thoughts and Feelings

When I first tried this technique I’d visualize the feeling as a scratchy, knotted ball of wool, and I’d picture it loosening with each breath I took.  It took me awhile to realize I was still fighting the feeling with the visualization. I was seeing it as something uncomfortable – something that needed fixing.

It’s important to see the feeling as neutral or positive. You want to get comfortable with the feeling over time so that it loses its power over you. Yah you still have fears and self doubts but you can see them for what they are and keep moving forward in spite of them.

Over time the exercise seems less silly, and as it becomes a normal thing for you to do it starts to take the power and intensity away from the thoughts and feelings. They may or may not ever go away completely, but you end up reacting to them less so they don’t matter as much even when they do occur.

And that’s a great place to be.

What do you think?

How do you accept your feelings and keep them from stopping you in your tracks? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Here’s what other people have to say about dealing with difficult feelings:

Photo by Susan E. Adams
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