Many of my clients like to say, “well I just feel this way, and I don’t know why.”
Let me share an observation on Emotions vs Sensations that I find helpful and might prove helpful to you. I believe when we step back and question our feelings, we can learn a lot and truly grow from a genuine place of curiosity and non-judgement.
During a coaching session, when I stay open, remain non-judging, have love, ask great questions, and provide a space where my client feels safe a beautiful process takes place. They start to piece together their thoughts and formulate answers to why they were feeling certain emotions and/or sensations.
Sensations are a feeling we get within our body and then we form an awareness of it. Good examples of sensation are hunger, fatigue and pain. These are the “big three” when it comes to sensation. You fall down and hurt yourself then you feel pain, it has been hours since you last ate so you feel hunger, it’s night time after a day of work now you are tired. Sensation is mostly tied to a physical experience that the body is having.
Then there is emotion.
Emotions are feelings created from a thought we are having. Some thoughts are intentional while other thoughts can be unintentional, or more habitual. Examples of forming an emotion are as follows:
It is a beautiful sunny day and you think, “Boy, it’s a beautiful day,” and that makes you happy.
A family member passes away, and you think, “I miss them so much,” so you feel sad.
It’s your wedding day, and you are thinking, “I am marrying my best friend,” so you feel love.
These are three basic examples of emotions— Happiness, Sadness and Love.
Both Emotion and Sensation create the all so familiar “feelings.” Feelings are a big driving factor for why we do or do not do something. For instance, take the phrase “Eating your emotions;” it infers that when you become emotional and want to eat, you aren’t eating because you are hungry, but because you are feeling emotions like boredom, nervousness, happiness, or sadness. Emotional hunger is very different than the stomach-aching sensation of hunger from lack of food.
If we get curious about our thinking process we can start to see that our thinking is driving habits, both unintentional and intentional. Here is a scenario to help visualize this:
You just got dumped over the phone! So, you go to the freezer (or drive to the store!) and get your favorite ice cream, because that is going to make you feel better. Well, it might for a few minutes, at any rate. But, what caused you to actually reach for the ice-cream for comfort?
You were told you were being dumped and you probably thought, “I can’t believe they dumped me!” You probably got sad or mad, or both. You didn’t want to feel these emotions, so you act from that place of sadness because being sad with ice-cream in your belly just sounds better than being sad without it and still alone. Instead of giving yourself permission to feel sad, you try to cover it up with food.
Exploring our feelings is a huge step in creating awareness. Break up the feeling and explore if it is an emotion or a sensation. You can even go deeper and see if it is an intentional or unintentional thought. It’s all about breaking the process down and it’s about acting from a place of awareness.
Stopping and realizing that whatever feeling or emotion I’m experiencing will not hurt me if I just allow myself to feel it and not do something to avoid, react, or resist it has helped me greatly.
Someone is laughing hysterically, and we leave the room. A friend of ours is crying and we react by saying, “this isn’t all about you!” Someone is telling us how much they love us, and we zone out and say, “Are you ready to go?” Three emotions: happiness, sadness, and love and three responses that might be a little odd or dismissive in the situations given.
Yet if the emotion was anger, and the individual that was experiencing anger where yelling at you, leaving the room, screaming back, or changing the subject, are all ways that would be considered acceptable or “normal” responses. Why is that? Have you ever thought that anger gets a bad rap? For being just an emotion, we sure do seek to avoid it.
Anger is in all of us and we experience anger in different ways. The interesting thing, with the examples I gave above, is that the hysterical laughing, the crying, and the confessing of love don’t typically lead to or cause violence. Yet anger is associated with violence. I want to make myself clear on my message regarding this emotion: anger when turned to violence is never okay. But anger, as itself, might be one of the most misunderstood and missed opportunities of growth in our times.
Someone is yelling at you, it might be nothing you did; they are not getting physical, they are just obviously upset because they raised their voice to you. Perhaps you can see that you might have done something wrong, but you can’t quite figure out what you could have possibly done to provoke such anger. If you have witnessed a toddler throwing a fit, have been in customer service, have teenagers or a significant other, you might be able to relate to this scenario.
So, what do you do?
You have options. You can react, avoid, resist, or you could just allow; allow the person to say what they are saying, and decide in that moment to understand and be compassionate to what it is that they are experiencing.
Some might think I don’t allow anyone to yell at me. Others think that their anger could escalate and get violent. These are reasonable questions. My question to you is ask yourself what feels best. How do you want to show up in this situation? Are you feeling threatened because of what they are saying or is it because of what you are thinking about what they are saying?
What would be the opposite of anger? Some would say love, and I do believe that Love is always a great response to anything, but I would like to offer an emotion that I have been pondering a lot lately, but is often miss understood.
Meekness. What if your reaction to anger was always meekness? Meekness, by definition, is having the ability to be superior, knowledgeable, have strength, and power, but choosing to be submissive. In other words, you could yell back, you could leave, you could change the subject. But, you could also be present and just listen.
You have someone yelling at you in full force and you keep your cool and listened, then as they are finishing you say, “I can see that this really matters to you. Would you like to tell me more about this?” Or you could say, “thank you for bringing this to my attention, is there something I can do for you that would help?”
When we can see anger as an emotion, we can detach that it might have any meaning to what we did or did not do. As a society, we are so good at Internalizing others’ emotions and making it about us. Remember that emotion represents them and their state of mind.
The phrase, “All problems are interpersonal relationship problems” rang in my ears as I finished listening to The Courage to be Disliked, a book by Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga. I have listened to it on audio book at least three times and took away a new perspective each time. It is enjoyable to listen to as it is read as a dialogue between an older, wiser man and a younger adult, discussing on the theory of Adlerian Psychology. So, it feels like you are listening to a conversation.
Adlerian Psychology is a psychotherapy approach based upon the work of Alfred Adler. Adler is considered one of the big three founders of psychotherapy alongside Freud and Jung. One of the points that was made clear at the beginning was the difference in Etiology psychology Freud and Juan and Teleology psychology, Adler.
Here is a definition of each:
Etiology – the study of causation or origination. More completely, etiology is the study of the causes, origins, or reasons behind the way that things are, or the way they function, or it can refer to the causes themselves.
Teleology – Is a reason or explanation for something as a function of its end, purpose, or goal. A purpose that is imposed by a human use.
The book uses many examples to explain Teleology. One example was how 2 people from the same household, when now as adults, choose very different ways to view the world. In Etiology the results and outcome from cause and effect would be the same. Yet Teleology allows you to have the reason of why you decided to do or not to do something.
One point, that I would say as a whole, people might find harsh, was that trauma does not exist. That now, is now, and the past is only present in your thoughts now. He made some compelling arguments that made me really examine my past. Viewing habits, I have now that I might find myself justifying and saying, “That is why I am not where I want to be, because of this in my past.”
To paraphrase a point in the book, “We make out of them (our experiences in life) whatever suits our purpose. It’s not the experience itself but the meaning we give those past experiences.”
What I found very interesting about this statement was its similarity to a question I will use with clients from time to time, “What are you making that mean?” It’s a question I use on myself regularly, and it gives me some awareness about where my thinking is right now, as well as is that thinking serving my bigger purpose as a Wife, Mother, Coach, daughter, sister, friend, and community member?
Another topic that was explored in Kishimi and Koga’s book was that of the traits of inferiority, superiority, and competition. When we find these traits in our behaviors, we can see people and situations as winners and losers. We compare ourselves to others. What they have and what we don’t have, or the opposite, we have so much more, and they have not as much, or none.
Being in competition with someone we might show up feeling superior to them, or we might think they are better than us so we show up as inferior to them. When we can drop competition and allow ourselves to see those around us as comrades and people to learn from, the ego can have a rest and you find yourself realizing that “All problems are interpersonal relationship problems.”
Have you ever felt like leaving a room when someone is speaking to you because you don’t want to listen? Have you put a task on your calendar and when it comes time to do it you wanted to do something else? Respond to someone by yelling or using hurtful words, because you are so angry? All of these examples are you processing emotions of discomfort. Most of the time with discomfort we want to react, resist, or avoid, like the examples above. This week’s blog is about allow discomfort to take its place in your life and decide to process it.
Processing discomfort is a skill and I have been challenging myself to do this every chance I get. I will be completely honest, sitting and feeling discomfort is not at all something I want to do on the regular. I would so much rather feel good all the time. Actually, if I can feel just a little bit better than discomfort, I would take that, too. We, and our primal limbic system, want to do all we can to not have to feel discomfort. Anything but that!
If you were to take a moment to look over the ads that pop up on your computer, infesting your phone, surrounding your freeway and city drive you would notice that much that is being advertised to us has to do with selling us on how we can feel better and take away discomfort. Most are temporary fixes. So why do we want this feeling gone? What is it that is so terrible that we are willing to throw money at it to take the emotion away?
Discomfort happens to everyone, even someone who looks as though they have it all together, also at times in their life, has felt discomfort. The difference between them and you might be that they have decided to allow discomfort instead of react, avoid or resist it. For me, the emotion I have on the regular is self-doubt. Let me share how I process this emotion of discomfort.
I have a task before me, writing this week’s blog, and I am thinking, “I don’t know enough about this topic.”
Then I have the feeling Self-doubt.
So, I spin in thought, do more research, get up and get a snack, call my sister, get on Facebook, go for a walk. My result? Yup, you guessed it. No blog, or it took me twice to four times as long to write it because I allowed the feeling self-doubt to be in control.
Here is me allowing self-doubt in a healthy way:
The same thought comes up and I again have self-doubt. But instead of letting that emotion and thought take hold, I recognize I am having self-doubt, that my mind spins when I feel this emotion and the action does not produce the result I want.
I want to do my blog because it is a commitment I made to myself and to the subscribers who receive it. I am going to time myself for 5 minutes and allow this emotion to process through me. Sitting in self-doubt on purpose. 5 minutes pass. Still feeling a bit of self-doubt but not nearly as strong as before. Perhaps if I think instead, “It’s time to write my blog, I can do this.” My new thought makes me feel encouraged. So, I begin to write my blog, allow the writing mistakes to take place, and in 1 hour have it complete, and ready to be edited.
So, as a result, not only is my blog completed, I feel my words I wrote are of encouragement. Which in turn shows me I can do hard things by building my resilience to allow myself to sit in purposeful discomfort.
Discomfort doesn’t go away, but you grow resilience for it. You can learn how to lean into it and process the emotion contributing to your discomfort as you move forward.