Following the post on Real Life Skill #2 (Experience your emotions and direct your feelings), let’s look at applying this in daily life. (Because if we don’t deal with our emotions and feelings, they will deal with us, coming out eventually, until we have little choice except to deal with them. And things can get very messy and painful.)
This is a skill we learn by going through life and actually feeling when emotions and feelings come up during the day. Note that this isn’t a one and done skill — as emotions and feelings continually arise, we’ll be continually practicing.
As we practice letting emotions and feelings come through, feeling them, slowing down and listening — rather than pushing them to the side or waiting for later when it’s more convenient to listen (and then never getting back to them) — we will get better at recognizing and understanding what info we may be getting and then responding (rather than reacting). We will also get better at directing our feelings in ways that lead to the results/goals we’d like (we’ve got some control over the thoughts we cycle through our head, which impacts how we feel in our body).
Putting this skill into practice, start by beginning your day and noticing when emotions and feelings come up (whenever you can — it may help to write yourself a note or put a reminder on your phone: “Notice how I’m feeling first”). Ask: What do I feel?
Take a deep breath and scan your body. Is there a tightness in your chest, a weight in your stomach, a lightness in your core, a tingle down your spine? Are the hairs on your arms standing up or maybe you feel the urge to cry or scream or smile and laugh? What is there? What do you feel?
Take a deep breath, and then take another. Notice. (And if you feel crazy and have no idea, that’s okay — simply practice. It may take time to dial in to how you’re feeling and what is there.)
A note if this feels uncomfortable (I know it did for me at first, especially if I was getting a “bad” feeling, such as a wave of heavy resentment): All feelings will pass. None last forever. They come and they go, if we let them. However, if we impede their flow, they’ll get stuck and can cause issues as they try to get our attention. If we let them through when they come up, they’ll get less stuck.
Next, get curious. What’s here? How do I feel? What’s the information?
Maybe it’s a feeling of contraction or heaviness, a “no” knowing about something, say an event you’re thinking about attending. Or perhaps it’s a feeling of fear that has a tinge of excitement while considering trying something new (perhaps a”yes, do it!” situation). Or maybe it’s an almost empty head spinning feeling with words telling you an old, old message, a story that you should sit down and be quiet, that you don’t know what you’re talking about (or maybe there is an inkling, in the old story, of a feeling of calm and confidence — that you do know what you’re doing). What’s there?
Take 30 seconds, a minute, or more and listen. Grab paper and pen — write down what you notice if that helps move things through, or speak them out loud to yourself or another. Sit with what you’re noticing, holding off on an immediate response. Ask: How do I feel?
And then decide what to do next and take an action that feels helpful, useful, good, better — to you.
Real Life Skill #2: Experience your emotions and direct your feelings. Your emotions and feelings (and what you do with them) will be your greatest asset or biggest liability.
If you don’t know (and maybe feel silly for attempting to listen), that’s okay! As you practice this skill, you’ll start noticing and understanding more and more. And as you start giving yourself more space between experiencing an emotion or feeling and taking action, you move from reaction to response — and actions taken from response-land typically work out better for all involved.
In support of your teen, this is another skill where modeling is key to helping them learn. (And yes, it may take time for them to really understand and get it, and to see the use in it — it can be very easy to get into the “push down emotions and feelings and react without noticing” zone — most of us do.)
To help model this skill, try verbalizing your own feelings when they come up, as well as noting, out loud, that you’re going to take a deep breath and then decide what to do. If journaling, writing yourself a note, or meditation is your thing, aim for doing it where your teen can see you. At your next family meal, ask what’s going on and how they felt that day — and demonstrate deep listening when each person responds. (And note that this may require practice in creating space for your teen to feel all of their feelings, the easy ones and the less comfortable ones, both for your teen and for you.)
As much as you can, try and share how you’re truly feeling, describing as best as you know how, and include a few words to show yourself walking through experiencing feelings and emotions, noticing, and then responding to a situation.
As you continually practice feeling (letting all feelings come through), your teen will start to pick up on the idea that emotions and feelings are something we all experience, and that it’s okay to feel them (all of them!). And that they don’t need to take action right away — they can take a moment to breathe, feel and notice, and then respond. As a bonus, you’ll get better at experiencing your own emotions and directing your feelings, turning them into even greater assets for you (which will help your teen even more!).
Feelings and emotions are part of being human. They can be our greatest asset or biggest liability. It’s our choice.