It’s so easy to get stuck in our feelings… feelings of depression, worry, anxiety, pain, etc. The feelings aren’t generally the problem, but instead the “story” we make up about those feelings are the biggest culprit and whether we believe that story. My work as a therapist in San Diego often entails working with clients who are struggling with emotions that seem overwhelming, and watching clients learn to understand, change and cope with their feelings more effectively is very rewarding. Emotions can be very useful and beneficial but can also be misleading. Feelings can alert us to problems so we can look for solutions. Feelings can act as symptoms so we can search for the source of the real problem. But, when we take feelings too seriously, they can sink us and lead us to feel we may never feel any differently, as if we are powerless against them. How many of us have had the defeatist and pessimistic attitude when we were sad and felt as if the rest of our lives were colored by how we felt at that moment? Or, if we were very ill and felt physically quite poor, thinking we would never feel well again? Feelings are extremely powerful, but understanding how they can positively and negatively impact you will enable you to use them to your benefit.
Using Patience and Wisdom
Time is a wonderful healer! Time changes everything but what we do with that time will directly influence how we feel in the future. If we remain passive and feel defeated, we will most likely get temporary respite from the painful feelings, but they’ll probably return. It’s a cycle – the feelings are alerting us to the fact something is wrong and needs to be changed. So, if you don’t “get it right” or “get the solution” the first time, you can count on the fact you’ll probably get many more tries.
The next time you’re feeling sad, scared, angry, worried or experiencing any other uncomfortable feeling, instead of falling prey to it, or attempting to push it away, be curious about it. What is it trying to tell you? For example, if you’re worried, ask yourself if it’s legitimate and if the source of worry is legitimate. Sometimes a simple reality check will help you believe things aren’t so bad. Sometimes the worry is legitimate and in that case it’s good to see if you are catastrophizing a bit which leads to the feeling being more intense and the beliefs surrounding it appear more real. If the worry is valid, what’s the worst thing that could happen? Is it really THAT bad that you can’t recover? As people, we’re resilient. Yes, life is often a struggle and things get challenging, but this is when it’s really important to meet life and the presenting challenges with a positive, strong and confident attitude. So, regardless of what the feeling is that grips you, you can move through it. If examining your feelings alerts you to something you can do circumstantially, then take action! This is very important. Far too often, the feelings and associated negative beliefs lead us to feel like victims and we subsequently feel powerless. If you identify a circumstance which you believe is influencing and feeding the painful feeling, it is very important on many levels to empower yourself to change the circumstance in which you have control. It’s one thing if a feeling fools you into feeling like a victim, and another one entirely if you victimize yourself. Empowerment is key!
Know What the Pain is Telling You and Stay the Course
To summarize, some feelings can be rushed through by circumstances which we have control over and other feelings we have to endure while keeping pessimistic thoughts at bay while being mindful the feelings themselves are only temporary and the worst case scenario won’t reduce us to nothingness. Yes, there are some situations that cause grief and pain and won’t change, but luckily, these aren’t the norm. When that does arise (such as a permanent loss), grief work is necessary.
For the majority of us, if we stay focused on identifying our feelings, challenge their validity, change circumstances we have control over, and allow ourselves to temporarily feel the painful emotions, we’ll be okay and make the best of this unfortunate side of life. A deep, rich and full life requires us to experience all sides of the human condition and unpleasant feelings are part of that. But, they make us bigger and stronger in the end.
If you are considering examining issues related to the above, feel free to contact me. I’d be happy to talk with you and answer any questions you might have. As a local San Diego therapist, I’d be happy to see if we are a good match or refer you to a different San Diego therapist if you are interested in referrals.