A Mini-Guide To Help You Become More Emotionally Savvy

Marriage and Family Therapist By Shelly Bullard, MFT
Marriage and Family Therapist
Shelly Bullard, MFT, is a marriage and family therapist with a holistic and spiritual approach to relationships. She has worked with thousands of clients on improving their relationships with others and themselves.

Most of us don't have an easy time when it comes to feelings.

Men, you've been taught to hide your feelings away; to pretend like they don't exist. I can't imagine what it must be like to get the message that crying is associated with weakness? It just doesn't seem fair.

And women, we've been taught that our tendency to be emotional is a flaw — something to hide, feel ashamed of, and bury. While we have a harder time hiding our emotions than men do, many of us have developed a coping mechanism that doesn't work. We suppress our feelings (because they're a flaw, right?), only to explode at a later time. This cycle provokes even more shame about feelings, causing us to repress more, and … you know the drill.

It's time for us to find acceptance for our feelings! Because we all have them. And that's a good thing.

Feelings connect us to what's real. They tell us what's most important. They're behind the best moments of our lives.

When we suppress our emotional selves, we suppress ALL of our emotions. You don't get to choose ("I take a little more love and a little less depression…") — they come as a package. Therefore, the more you allow yourself to feel the spectrum of emotional colors, the richer you life will become.

In an effort to become more emotionally savvy, here is mini-guide to help you feel your difficult feelings as they come up. Doing so will allow you to embrace the fullness of yourself and your life.

Step 1: Stop

The first thing to do when you feel an emotion coming on is stop. Literally, just stop.

It's common for us to get busier when an emotion arises. We try to fill up the space; we try to do anything but feel! But this is just a form of repression and in the long run, it will not make the feeling go away (quite the contrary, actually; it keeps it around longer).

Instead of turning to a coping mechanism to get out of the uncomfortable state, just stop and let the feeling flow.

Step 2: Feel

If only it were that easy!

We don't want to feel the feeling it doesn't feel good!

Well, no, it doesn't. But the sooner you feel it, the sooner it will be over. As Carl Jung said, "What you resist, persists." Bad feelings included.

So how do you actually feel a feeling?

Feel its sensation in your body. Just let it wash over you.

Is it hot? Cold? Spikey? Dull? Is there a color associated with it? Where is it in your body? Is it moving? Is it stuck?

Use these questions to help orient yourself to the way the emotion feels in your body. That's feeling!

One more thing: It's common to analyze a feeling before you even feel it (this is another form of avoidance). Don't take the bait! If you notice your mind is getting overly activated, drop back into your body and surrender to the experience.

Step 3: Say "I feel ____."

Usually big feelings happen in relation to other people. This means that a conversation will most likely take place to process the experience. Great. I'm all for communication.

However, I highly suggest waiting to speak until the emotional upheaval has passed. The reason for this is because it can be very difficult to say what you mean during an emotionally charged experience.

We don't like waiting we want to resolve it now! Keep in mind that now isn't always the best time, especially if someone is feeling emotionally overwhelmed.

When you're composed enough, use these words to talk about your experience:

"I feel ____."

The reason this simple statement is so important is because it allows you to take responsibility for your own feelings. When you communicate in this manner, the person you're speaking to will feel less defensive, and potentially more available to resolve the issue.

Women, please be sensitive to how hard it is for men to come forward with their feelings. Remember that they've been taught not to. And men, remember that we women feel things big time. Please don't label our emotional tendencies as hysterical (that's just offensive).

Use these three steps to feel your feelings safely. When you do, you'll be able to freely feel all the beautiful twists and turns of life.

Please leave a comment below and tell us which feeling is hardest for you to feel, and how you are trying to let yourself feel it freely. I look forward to hearing from you.

Shelly Bullard, MFT
Shelly Bullard, MFT
Shelly Bullard, MFT, is a marriage and family therapist with a holistic and spiritual approach to...
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