The subject of feelings is not a subject that comes up enough in our society. As children, we are often encouraged to dismiss our feelings in favor of how our parents/caregivers think and feel. To be clear, I am not here to bash the people who raised us. My goal is to provide clarity. When we are encouraged to stuff our feelings, a big part of who we are gets stuffed as well. The problem with stuffing feelings is we begin to act out in inappropriate ways because our unexpressed feelings are still there. Boys in particular are socialized to hide their feelings and “toughen up”. Girls are often labeled as people who feel “too much”. Knowing that as children we are taught to dismiss our feelings, leads us to learning that as adults we are tasked with learning how to have feelings and express our feelings in an appropriate manner.
Learning to feel after being encouraged to stuff can be difficult. As you learn to decode and recognize your feelings, being patient with yourself is important. If it is any comfort, many people learn to recognize their feelings in their adult years. One of the first things you will want to do is search for a feeling chart – online, in a book, or from a friend. In a pinch you can use the feelings – happy, sad, and fearful. I am not including angry because anger is an outward expression of fear.
As you begin to identify feelings, keeping a feeling journal and/or dealing with one feeling per day can be helpful. In the beginning, you should only do as much feeling work as you feel comfortable with. As recognizing feelings becomes easier, you will engage in more and more feeling work until having and understanding how you are feeling becomes second nature to you.
On the path to recognizing feelings, there are some landmarks that will help you along the way. In moments where you feel a burst of excitement, you can label the feeling as happy. Happiness can also come when getting a raise or participating in a hobby you enjoy. Sadness feelings can show up as wanting to cry or feeling unheard or misunderstood. Fearfulness is often expressed as avoiding a person or situation or wanting to act out against someone. When working with feelings, remember that no feeling is “bad”. However, the goal is to have feelings and not harm yourself or another being.
If you do feel like harming yourself or others, call 911/your country’s emergency number or seek treatment at a mental health treatment center.
All the Best!
Founder of the Man and Woman’s Mindset