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How To Feel Your Emotions Without Being Swallowed By Them

Tree Swallow- Moose Hill Wildlife Sanctuary, Sharon MA
Creative Commons License photo credit: wsweet321

“The emotions aren’t always immediately subject to reason, but they are always immediately subject to action” – William James

Emotions are sensations you can feel in your body.  You can also “feel” them with your mind, but that’s a dangerous place for an emotion to live because your mind tend to spin things out of control when you are not paying attention.

Once your emotions have made themselves known, they will leave you alone.  All they ask is that you feel their presence.  That can best be done by feeling your emotions in your body, not in your mind.

  1. Find Someplace Still and Quiet – It is easier to listen in a still, quiet space.  Emotions are subtle.  If there is a lot of “noise” you may not be able to hear them.
  2. Name Your Emotions – This is about all you will use your mind for.  I find this helpful because when I have a feeling, it’s often a jumble of different emotions.  Just like when you pick up a necklace that’s become tangled together, separate the strands so you will know what you are dealing with.
  3. Feel Your Emotions In Your Body – Don’t explore your emotions with your mind, explore them with your body.  During this step, don’t think about the emotion.  Notice how it feels.  Do you feel warm and alert with anger?  Or heavy with sadness?  Maybe restless with frustration?  Feel all the sensations that you can.  You may want to name them too, just don’t start thinking about them.
  4. Sit and Feel – Once you’ve explored how you feel, sit for a few minutes.  Give in to the sensation of the emotion. Once you stop resisting it, it stops pushing itself onto you.
  5. When the Emotion Lets Up, It’s Time to Get Up – Wait until the sensation starts to subside.  When you have explored fully, and then sat with it until it’s end, get up and move on.

Note:  This post was inspired by this comment on the post When Your Emotions Are Running Away With You:
“Hi Amanda — thanks for this post. One of the things I do is similar to the second thing you said, which is to notice how the emotion manifests in my body. If I’m feeling angry, for instance, that’s usually my lower back getting uncomfortably warm. When I look at it this way I realize that “anger” is just a name I give to that warmth, and that stops my mind from coming up with the kind of stories I think many of us end up spinning out when we’re feeling angry (”I’ve got to take revenge,” “this situation is unsafe,” and so on).”  – Chris Edgar, Purpose Power Coaching

How do you deal with challenging emotions?  Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments!


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15 Comments

  1. Hi Amanda,
    These are so good and I love Chris’s comment. The only thing I would add is journaling. Works all the time for me. Also Jan Lundy says ask yourself if you are reacting or responding…maybe that would prevent the entire emotional upset.
    .-= Tess The Bold Life´s last blog ..It’s All About You =-.

  2. Very good post and tips! It is important to be aware of our emotions, what we are feeling and equally important to not resist what we feel rather let it flow through us, acknowledge what we are feeling, decide what we want to do with what we are feeling and if it does not serve us, to simply allow the feeling to flow through, get out of its way.

  3. Excellent post and very timely for me too. I’m working hard to become more in touch with my emotions, even the negative ones. This can be difficult at times, but your suggestions are great. Thank you!
    .-= Positively Present´s last blog ..how to diversify your life portfolio =-.

  4. Amanda:

    Somehow you always post exactly what I need to hear! Yesterday, I was overcome by a barrage of emotion, so I took to the blog — a natural outlet, it seems, so that I can gain a better sense of self-awareness and understanding while readers can weigh in with their perspectives, insights, and similar situations. I needed to feel what I was feeling, I needed to write about it in order to understand it, in order to move on.

    I’m used to bottling up emotions, but then those just errupt and that’s never healthy. Feeling what needs to be felt and then moving on — or “when the emotion lets up it’s time to get up — is exactly right on. Great post, Amanda — it couldn’t have been better put and it’s something I’ll try to remember. Thanks!
    .-= Susan Pogorzelski´s last blog ..You Will Not Be Forgotten =-.

  5. Meditation can be great way to get rid of those thoughts of
    1. Fear
    2. Scarcity
    3. Lack
    4. Anxiety
    5. Suffering
    6. Sadness
    Find a comfortable spot and quiet your mind daily. Doing this will create a positive mind, daily posiitve momentum and self realization.
    .-= jonathanfigaro´s last blog ..How To Suck At Positive Thinking =-.

  6. Hi Amanda,

    Like Tess, I’ll turn to my journal if my emotions become overwhelming.

    I have a friend who always labels her emotions. From listening to her, I find myself doing that as well. It’s been a big help for me.
    .-= Barbara Swafford´s last blog ..Write Responsibly Right From The Start =-.

  7. Emotions are powerful. One must have the will to confront and tame it. We must have the wisdom to control and embrace it without being manifested in action. One imporant way to understand it is to give in to the sensation of the emotion, like what you have shared above. In due time, it will loose its power over us. 🙂
    .-= Walter´s last blog ..How to unleash your true capacity =-.

  8. Hey Amanda,

    Great advice! I never thought about the benefit of not “feeling” emotions with your mind, but with your body instead. I have, however, felt compelled to find someplace quiet when I’m feeling emotional. That always seems to be an effective way to experience the emotion and in turn overcome it.

    Christine
    .-= Christine Laubenstein´s last blog ..My newest favorite ice cream flavor =-.

  9. Thanks for this Amanda. I liked the observation about the emotion ultimately letting up — I think a lot of us tend to be afraid that if we allow ourselves to fully experience a sensation, it will never pass away, and the only remedy is to distract ourselves or push it away — but doing that just keeps the sensation lurking in the background.

  10. Amanda Linehan Amanda Linehan

    Hi Tess – Journaling is a great suggestion! Putting them down on paper makes them a little less overwhelming.

    Hi Mark – Yes, not resisting what we feel is so important. I like how you put it – acknowledge them and let them pass through. They are just trying to get a message to us. 🙂

    Hi Dani – Being more aware of negative emotions (and dealing with them appropriately!) can be difficult, but pays off in the end.

  11. Amanda Linehan Amanda Linehan

    Hi Susan – I agree. For me also, writing (blogging or otherwise) allows me to learn something about myself. It’s not just about putting together a polished message, but also seeing where that writing takes you. 🙂

    Hi Jonathan – Absolutely right, all those things you mentioned can be tamed just by quieting yourself.

    Hi Barbara – I will also label emotions from time to time. I find it really helpful. Sometimes I just have a “feeling” but don’t exactly know what it is – that’s when the labels help.

  12. Amanda Linehan Amanda Linehan

    Hi Walter – Right, when we can’t manage our emotions, they begin to manifest themselves in actions that we would rather not take!

    Hi Eden – Thanks a lot! I appreciate you visiting again. 🙂

    Hi Christine – So glad you stopped by!! Quiet places always help me too, when I’m feeling overwhelmed. Sometimes you need a little less noise.

    Hi Chris – Good point. It’s funny how quickly a “sensation” can pass if you let it. I’m always surprised that even with intense emotions, going with them instead of against will make them leave fairly quickly.

  13. Amanda — I am so pleased to have come upon this post at this time. I recently had a very difficult and painful experience. I am having a hard time separating the emotions and I will give your suggestions a try. I like the way you explained each one. Thanks for this:~)
    .-= Sara´s last blog ..How Courageous =-.

  14. Amanda Linehan Amanda Linehan

    Hi Sara – I’m glad you found this helpful. I often feel like my most intense emotions feel like a jumble of several feelings. That makes it feel more overwhelming.

  15. Nice info. I will be back, to read your nice info.

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