Feelings are information not instruction. Sit with that for a moment. How many times do you follow your feelings like a faithful dog only to find that afterwards, you are in more trouble or pain than you were before? A classic example is the affair. No one (okay almost no one) sets out to have an affair but when feelings start to grow, it is not uncommon for people to think that if their main relationship was in good shape, they wouldn’t be having these feelings for another person – WRONG!
Let’s look at feelings from another angle. Consider the news report you see on TV which talks about the 44 year old man killed in an industrial accident. In lounge rooms around the country, this same piece of information (fact) will be felt differently by many people :
- 65 year old woman breaks down at the thought that there is another mother on this planet who has lost her beloved son in a tragic accident.
- 44 year old woman gives her hubby a loving hug, grateful for the fact that he came home safely today
- 40 something year old woman silently wishes the same thing would happen to her abusive husband.
Same facts, different feelings
The stronger the bad feelings, the greater the urge to shift them. We are taught that we need to get rid of negative feelings as quickly as possible. In western society, success is at our fingertips and there is enormous pressure to be happy. I believe this drives up the rates of depression and anxiety because at various times in our lives, we just aren’t happy. If there is no obvious reason for, it can become a silent hell.
What if we were able to make room for unpleasant feelings and perhaps even approach them with a scientific curiosity. What if we were able to see them as nothing more than bits of information and not; threatening events; rules to be obeyed or even objective truth or facts.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy/Coaching offers us techniques that enable us to identify those automatic thoughts that we aren’t even aware we are having, identify how they connect with our feelings and then challenge those automatic thoughts to see how relevant they are.
Neuro-linguistic Programming, Solution Focused Therapy and Narrative Therapy also offer techniques for cognitive defusion (learning to separate thought from Self). The gift of living from the observing Self is that you are able to separate from your problems, opinions and history long enough to create a different perspective and see different possibilities; to take a breath. This is often all it takes to create a massive shift in someone’s life.
It takes a bit of practice to notice yourself getting caught up in your thoughts but it is worth reminding yourself on a regular basis. The best place to start is with your strongest feelings. Next time you have one, notice how urgent your next few feelings are. Do you have an urge to react to the situation? What would happen if you didn’t? Would the situation change for the worse if you gave yourself 3 minutes, 3 hours or 3 days to let your feelings wash over you so that you could see what’s really bothering you. Be your own best friend and take an interest in why your feelings were so strong. There is valuable information that should not be ignored.
If you would like some help learning how to get to the information inside your feelings, give me a call for a free 45 minute discovery session.