8 Steps to Acknowledge Your Feelings
Keeping our emotional health in check is a habit that we must cultivate. One of the ways that we stay emotionally healthy is by acknowledging the existence of our emotions both positive and negative. Unfortunately, we tend to disregard the emotions that make us feel “bad”. Over time we have accustomed ourselves to tune out these “bad feelings” and we’re left with an unfillable void in our mental space.
Feelings Vs. Emotions
Even though Feelings and Emotions are used synonymously, we must know their slight differences.
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), emotion is defined as “a complex reaction pattern, involving experiential, behavioral and physiological elements.”
Feelings, on the other hand is “self-contained phenomenal experience. They are subjective, evaluative, and independent of the sensations, thoughts, or images evoking them.”
For the purpose of this article, feelings and emotions shall be used interchangeably.
Below are eight steps to acknowledge and allow ourselves to feel the broad spectrum of your emotions.
Set aside a time to “feel your feelings”
Daily life can be a struggle and most of the times, it is hard to find time to relax let alone to face our emotions! The idea of confronting our demons and unravelling the reasons why we feel bothered and uncomfortable something seems like a counterintuitive task. Of course, we should just run away with any uncomfortable feeling and call it a day. But there is danger in letting emotions bottle up. Think of it as a daily check-in with yourself. What are the feelings that I experienced today? How did I handle myself in those situations? Is there something that I would change given I feel the same again in the future?
Realize that you are not selfish for feeling your emotions
One of the best gifts you can give yourself (and others) is self-awareness. You are not being selfish for having them, for understanding them, for trying to process them. Your feelings are unique to you and having the awareness of the emotions you feel and the behavior you exhibit is a gift to you and to others.
Don’t focus on the “feeling”, focus on the sensations
This means being conscious of the sensations in your body. If you feel angry, how does the body react? Is it tense? Is your head hot? Is there a lump on your throat? If you’re sad, does your eyes droop a little and feel sleepy? Is your breathing shallow? One technique is called “Body Scan Meditation”. Body scan meditation is a form of mindfulness meditation where you scan your body for tension, tightness, pain, or anything out of the ordinary. This may be difficult to carry out when you’re not used to “checking in” with the body, but this essential tool is helpful in identifying how your body responds to your emotions.
Use an emotion wheel (Plutchik’s wheel of emotions)
Identifying your emotions is a complicated process. Sometimes, you feel happy or lonely. Most of the times you feel a spectrum of feelings all at the same time. Robert Plutchik is a German-born American who created a wheel of emotions to illustrate different emotions. There are also variations of this model that shows specific emotions. Refer to this wheel when you are having a tough time identifying what you really feel.
Explain the feelings to yourself
Imagine a friend is feeling the exactly the same way you do. You would stay with your friend and try to make things better, right? Staying with your feelings is an act of choosing to be a friend to yourself. This is not rationalizing your feelings. Explain to yourself the events that led to this, prior to those feelings. This is having a conversation with yourself about how you really feel. Saying things aloud makes it more real and tangible.
Feeling your feelings is good but acting them out to others is not! Remember, you are responsible for your own feelings, only you. Help from a friend is great and could be insightful, but at the end of the day how you process your emotions is up to you. Don’t rally people behind you against another person, nor blame other people. Be accountable with your feelings. Own it.
Thank yourself and let it go
Once you’ve sat down and did one or two (or more!) of these exercises, thank yourself for being brave and facing your inner self. Imagine your emotions as a soft tangible object (butterfly, cloud, small wind, etc.) slowly moving away from you. Feelings pass by, they don’t stay long if you’ve acknowledged them head on.
Conclusion: Allowing yourself the necessity of identifying your emotions and allowing to feel them completely will help you understand yourself better. Staying with your feelings is an opportunity to get to know yourself a little better.