Series Two; Blog Seventy-Five
“Like the flowers, today’s full bloom of joy all fade and wither into despondency, yet I will remember that as today’s dead flower carries the seed of tomorrow’s bloom, so too does today’s sadness carry the seed of tomorrow’s joy.” – Og Mandino, The Greatest Salesman in the World
Feelings come and go. There are many different nuances of feeling experiences. Sometimes feelings seem congruent to life engagement and at times seem incongruent. Some feelings get our attention immediately. Others are more subtle, hidden underneath other feelings. These feelings need to be tended to lest they dominate your perception without your awareness. Some people struggle with a volcanic outburst of feelings. Others labor to feel anything at all. Feelings are not good or bad and do not need to become a criterion of judgment for your life experiences. You are neither good nor bad because you overly emote or have to work at feeling anything.
Sometimes you get stuck in feelings like sadness, depression, anger or shame. You can experience feelings about feelings. For example, you might be fearful to recognize that you feel shameful about a conflict. So you become busy in order to avoid the intimidating feeling of shame. You might think that you will have to do something you dread about the conflict. Maybe you will have to face a loss of something you value as important.
These are times that you can become vulnerable to feeling guilty about your feelings. It’s like you shouldn’t feel certain things if you are religious, mature, or in recovery.
Other times feelings can powerfully dominate your life. They can shape the way you perceive your world. Feelings like resentment, anger, fear, and jealousy can influence your own assessment and your worldview. You may use feelings at times to dominate others in order to get your needs met. Feelings used this way can be destructive in relationships.
As an addict, when you stop acting out with your drug of choice, unwanted feelings that have been avoided reappear and must be addressed. Therapeutic relational separations are initiated so that each partner can address unwanted feelings and create more healthy alternative interventions than the destructive dance that keeps them stuck in pain. It is important to not let your emotions define what is real or to control your life. Managing your emotions means that you are able to clear out your feelings so that you can function in your life from a centered place.
Acknowledge what you feel: As simple as this sounds, nothing changes until it is real. Slowing your life to recognize your feelings is necessary to manage your emotions. Establish a quiet time, do breath work and listen to your heart. It will help you identify what you feel. Don’t hide from pain by burying your feelings under a flurry of activity or other numbing out experiences. Pain and suffering are part of the experience of being alive. Identifying what you feel is a beginning toward healing.
Embrace your feelings: Don’t resist the feelings that are present, no matter how unwanted or intense. Leaning into and allowing the feelings to take their course is not the same as allowing the feelings to control your life. You can feel your feelings without letting them control your behavior. Beating a bag of pillows, writing an emotion-focused letter and a myriad of other actions can be helpful. Sometimes unwanted feelings get worse before they get better. Loss, disappointment, and hurtful actions take time to work through. The only way to address difficult feelings is to walk through them.
Release your feelings: You are not a robot. The steps toward effectively managing your emotions are not assembly-lined. People go back and forth in steps from being confused what they feel to recognizing and feeling. In time this process will create clarity and release you from the intensity of feelings. You will get stuck in your feelings when you do not take these steps. As you release your feelings you will learn to separate your feelings from what you do. You don’t have to become trapped in the drama of life experience. It is possible to let go.
You can make a commitment to live out a recovery value even when you have thoughts to the contrary and feelings of overwhelm and struggle. Practice acknowledging, embracing and releasing your feelings. Managing your feelings is the best way to care for your soul and transform your desire for sobriety into serenity.
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