Dealing with Feelings

When we are dealing with feelings, it is important to acknowledge the feelings of those around us – those they express as well as those they try to hide.   In the next blog post I will show you some ways of helping both others and ourselves with our feelings

The simple act of listening acknowledges the reality of the way someone feels, and sends out a message that says ‘you’re important’.  Being listened to makes people feel the way we would like to feel ourselves.  If it is important to acknowledge the feelings of the adults around us, the way we deal with the feelings of the children in our lives can have far reaching consequences, as we have already seen.

feelings 2

In addition to the way we feel, other patterns of response we exhibit as adults were probably learned as children.  For example, a dislike of insects probably came from the reaction of a parent or a significant other in our lives when we were young.  We watched others react in a certain way, and because of our love and respect for that person, we ‘believed’ their reaction, and adopted it as our own.  Some of these patterns were very subtle, while others may have been quite overt, and in the form of clear messages, as we discussed in the previous section.

There are two things to be learned from this.  In the first place, if we have children, or deal with children in any way, we can cultivate an awareness of the way they express their feelings.  We can consciously ‘allow’ them to have their own feelings and not ‘give’ them ones that actually belong to us.  It is equally important to do this in relation to the adults in our lives.  It is very easy to get into negative patterns with those close to us, such as partners or parents, where we don’t allow or acknowledge the way they feel, or want to impose our views or feelings onto them.

Secondly, by gaining the awareness that our original patterns of response were learned in the first place, we discover that we are able to change the ones we don’t particularly like, and that we can keep the ones we do like.  As we saw, and have hopefully been practising, it is possible to choose how, or in fact whether we express a particular emotion.  There is also the choice of changing response patterns we do not like by our awareness that most of our patterns were learned in the first place, and can therefore be changed.

feelings 1

There are many things that will help you in Sue’s book “Peace of Mind – Pathways to Successful Living”.  Download chapter 1 free now!

 

What, exactly, do we say to make ourselves feel bad?

What, exactly, do we say to make ourselves feel bad?

Dr. Albert Ellis maintains that we cause our own discomfort by the way we process things in our own minds. He says that we “construct” the world by the sentences that we repeat to ourselves in our minds. The logical follow on from this is that if we do cause the problem, we too can alter it. WHAT exactly, were you saying to yourself just BEFORE you felt bad last time, or should I say, just before you made yourself feel bad?

  1. Start to think of the words you use inside your head.  This will be a set of sentences packed fairly tightly together.  When you have isolated your sentences, start to write them out.
  2. Some of the sentences will be reasonable and logical enough. Others, though, will be emotion-laden e.g.-

“I can’t stand this”

“This is awful”

“It makes me feel terrible when I ….”

Keep the logical sentences.  Challenge yourself with your use of the other ones.  You need to convince yourself of the illogical nature of what you are saying, and keep gently challenging yourself.  We say, “I can’t stand it “, when this is a nonsensical phrase.  The “it” in, “I can’t stand it” implies that “it” has landed upon us from another planet or somewhere, and does not acknowledge the fact that we have personal control over our feelings.  Of course you can stand the feeling you have given yourself.  In reality you’ve probably done so many times before without the situation finishing you off.  Having said this, acknowledging your feeling of discomfort is perfectly acceptable and in itself brings a sense of relief.

If the bad feeling you have given yourself appears to have come from someone else’s action or what they have said to you, think for a minute.  What did the other person intend?  Did they intend to hurt you very much?  I would put it to you that it is YOUR perception of what YOU think that THEY think about you that is causing the discomfort.  Remember the old saying, “Sticks and stones will break your bones but words can never hurt you”.

Challenge yourself and your reactions.  Are you hurting yourself by what your perceived view is of what you think that person thinks of you?  God forbid that that person DID intend the hurt, but if they did intend to hurt you then you need to look at this relationship very closely.  It is then up to you what you do about it.  At least this perception offers you direct choices.

  1. The most important thing to remember is to be kind to yourself.  Change can take a while.

This distinction is true of all emotions.  There may be qualities in a person or some aspect of his or her behaviour that causes some reaction in us.  It may be frustration at certain habits, envy of achievements, or whatever, but in each case the response or reaction is ours.  If we can own it, we can choose whether or not to have it.

As we strive to become more aware of our reactions it is a good idea to remember:

  • to be kind to ourselves
  • not to judge the way we feel, merely to observe it
  • eliminate the words ‘should’ and ‘should not’ from our vocabulary
  • that there is no such thing as right or wrong when it comes to feelings.

Feelings just “are”, AND THAT’S OKAY!

With practice, we can get really fluent at this technique, and it is life changingIt may be a good idea to keep a diary or journal, to record feelings, to note whether we ‘own’ our feelings or feel that someone else caused them.  The most important thing to remember is to be kind to ourselves.  Change can take a while.

feeling bad

Decision for Change

Regarding your decision for change, decide to become more aware.  Do your best to find that moment of choice just before an uncontrollable reaction.  Sometimes this will be easy, such as when the situation is complex and needs a bit of thought.

Other reactions are almost instantaneous.  We can understand these instantaneous reactions if we think of secretarial shorthand.  Symbols are used to express many words.  In the same way a situation can ‘squash up’ the sentences we repeat to ourselves.  This ‘squashing up’ has the effect of intensifying the associated emotions, and the eruption is immediate, rather than built up over time.

If we could slow the process down, we would find that the things we say to ourselves are still there, and so too are the ways this makes us feel (or indeed how we make ourselves feel!) – hence the powerful reactions we sometimes have.  By teasing apart and slowing down the events leading up to the reaction, we will see that even this “uncontrollable” reaction is, actually still under our control.

Anger is a good example of a situation where the moment of choice is difficult to recognise.  After all, if someone makes us angry, we get angry – there is little choice!  It may become a little easier if we consider the distinction between someone making us angry, and getting angry as a result of something someone does.  The difference is more than semantic – it relates to control and responsibility.  We may think that something or someone makes us angry, but the reality is that we make ourselves angry by our perception of what is happening – and here, at this point, we most certainly do have a choice.

Sqash emotions

We can choose (once we have learnt) how to respond to situations, and in this way we can accept the responsibility for ourselves, thereby regaining control.

There are many things that will help you in Sue’s book “Peace of Mind – Pathways to Successful Living”.  Download chapter 1 free now!

What to do next about yesterday

Let us explore yesterday’s idea in a little more detail and work out what to do next.  First we need to understand and accept that there is a perfectly good reason for the way we behave. The reason may be well hidden, but it is there. Where there is a reason, there is something to change, and where there is the possibility of change, there is a choice.  More than that, simply by becoming aware of the fact that we are ‘reacting’, that something is happening inside us to ‘make’ us act in a particular way, we start to become aware of how this feels. We become aware of the ‘build-up’, of the way tension or emotion is welling up inside of us, and we become aware of the ‘flash-point’, where it quite literally explodes, and we are propelled forward into whatever action we take. By being aware that there are stages to our process, we also realise that there is a moment before the ‘flash-point’. Leading up to this ‘flash point’, we can recognise the communication we have with ourselves. We can become aware of the words and sentences we use in talking to ourselves. Often these sentences go on in our heads constantly.

Albert Ellis, a famous (now late, founder of CBT) American psychiatrist says that we must do two things here – first recognise the sentences, and recognise that our internalised construction of these sentences creates the problem, the bad feeling.  Throughout his writing, he quite often paraphrases William Shakespeare, ‘There’s nothing in life but thinking makes it so’.  Fancy Shakespeare thinking that! No wonder he was voted the greatest Briton ever in a competition a couple of years ago!

At this point, then we need to say, “Okay, if I created this bad feeling, I can also decide to do something about it”. Ellis also says, rather comfortingly, that if we work half as hard at getting better as we did in making ourselves ill in the first place, we will actually get better very quickly.  So there are a few indicators to help us recognise the way in which we contribute to the way we react to situations – ways we can identify and change to ‘flash point’. We can pay attention to how it feels, and we can pay attention to what we say to ourselves. By observing closely, we find that we can begin to pinpoint a very precise moment.

This can become for us a moment of choice. We can in this moment, if we choose, deflect the surge of our eruption into some other activity. There is a split second in time when we can change our automatic response. There is a moment just before anger, when we make the decision to be angry. There is a moment just before we lash out, when we can choose to change our reaction – if that’s what we want. The simple act of becoming aware of the process within us brings us to the verge of being able to make a change. Think about acknowledging yourself and consider doing so. Give it a go! So many learned people in the world of counselling use the phrase “Acknowledgement is often enough!” That doesn’t mean that it is always everything to everybody, but it IS often enough.

More about past problems: storage

More about past problems: concerning storage

From what has been said in this blog earlier, it seems clear that our storage system is necessary for our health and survival in the world, and we invest a great deal of energy in making sure it’s functioning efficiently. Even a perfectly functioning storage system exacts a price. The more efficiently we lock our feelings away, the less in touch we become with the way we feel, and also the more difficult it becomes to connect with others and to relate to what is going on around us.

Another thing happens when we deny a significant portion of the way we feel. In the first place, we start to believe that we must be totally insignificant and unimportant because there is no-one ‘out there’ able to validate us.  Secondly, we assume that as ‘out there’ is right, and as it does not agree with our experience ‘in here’, we must be wrong.  By logical deduction our perception and/or information processing system must be faulty.  This means that we are unreliable, and unreliable, as we know, means ‘no-good’. We no longer feel good about ourselves, or trust ourselves.  We grow suspicious, and we stop loving or even liking ourselves much at all.

overfull storage

Moment of Choice

If we react to situations because of all this stuff stored inside of us, surely it’s not ‘our fault’ and there is nothing we can do to make things different?  Surely, by our own definition change isn’t possible, ever?  Surely things will just get worse and worse?  Unlikely as it may seem at our deepest and darkest moment, it is possible to change the way we react.  There is a process whereby we can turn ‘react’ into ‘respond’.  This change is one of the first and most fundamental steps to achieving true Peace of Mind.

From “Peace of Mind – Pathways to Successful Living” by Sue Washington. Download chapter 1 free today!

Is the problem in the stars? What Shakespeare says …

Is the problem in the stars? What Shakespeare says is below.

“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars but within ourselves ….”

William Shakespeare (Julius Caesar Act 1 Scene 1)

Julius Caesar

When I was looking for pictures of Julius Caesar and Brutus I came across this photograph of the young (now late) James Mason in the role of Brutus.  No wonder my mother’s generation of females was in love with him … He is so handsome …

brutus

There are many things that will help you in Sue’s book “Peace of Mind – Pathways to Successful Living”.  Download chapter 1 free now!

How problems from our past history can affect us

How problems from our past history can affect us is explored a bit here.

The statement that the unconscious mind is filed by association has a long reach. A person’s feelings of rejection can have little to do with an incident that is happening NOW, but can be so much more strongly associated with those of the twelve and fourteen year old we once were. For example, of course a mother does not reject a twelve-year-old by dying – but that’s not the point. The youngster can feel rejected. A sister doesn’t necessarily reject her younger sister one when fleeing from the wrath of her father, of course not, but the youngster can feel “stranded”. With careful psychotherapy, feelings that are in us from the far past can be, mercifully, laid to rest.

past problems 2

You can deduce therefore, that a small incident as a child – say of a grazed knee, may be stored in the same ‘file’ or ‘box’ as a traumatic motor accident in which we were made to feel insignificant, and a shattered love affair, in which our feelings were denied. When the box or file is opened, not only will the feelings associated with the grazed knee emerge, but also the associated feelings from the other ‘items’ stored with it. Fortunately, however, most of the time these ‘files’ remain password protected. It’s usually only when the whole storage system gets too full and overflows, that a little leakage occurs. This usually shows up as one of a whole range of symptoms and we have a clear message that something is wrong. If the illness or sense of ‘wrong’ persists, we usually do something about it by seeking help from the professional we believe will be able to solve the problem for us.

See more of this in Sue’s book “Peace of Mind – Pathways to Successful Living”. Download chapter 1 today.  More of this is shown on you tube: YouTube Mnemodynamics Video

past problems 1

How we learn to doubt ourselves & ‘store’

Over time we learn to doubt ourselves & ‘store’ things up …

We spend many years in formal education, learning the appropriate use of our minds.  We learn social interaction by trial and error, and by feedback from our families, friends and society in general.  The little we do learn about our feelings and how to deal with them is governed by general assumptions and stereotypes such as, “boys don’t cry”, or, “girls like pink”.  We don’t learn how to deal with the rage we sometimes feel towards our parents when we are children or teenagers, or how to deal with feelings of jealousy towards a younger brother or sister who appears to have what we want. Parents, never having had help dealing with these issues themselves are unlikely to know what to do for their children.  Generation after generation of us end up feeling uncomfortable and incompetent when faced with the emotions of others.

“Don’t be silly, there’s nothing to be scared of!”

“Stop crying, it’s only a little scratch!”

“Don’t be angry!”

“Calm down!”

“That’s nothing – when I was a lad ……..”

How often do words like these, and many more besides echo down the generations.  Each time words like this are used by a parent or someone important in our lives, it invalidates the way we feel and a little part of us begins to doubt ourselves and our ability to know ourselves. We begin to think that we must be wrong and these other voices must be right, but still we feel what we feel. The hurt still hurts and the anger or frustration still smoulders, but it becomes easier to hide it away, to store it somewhere where it doesn’t bother us.

Because of the way we have been labelled in the past, negatively or positively, we build up an image of ourselves as the, “clever” or “strong” or “clumsy” or “stupid” person suggested by our world. Everything that disagrees with that picture gets pushed away and stored or denied so that we don’t know it ever existed.

We may carry on like this for years or in some cases for our whole lives, no longer knowing what we feel or who we are, dutifully believing what we were told, perhaps decades ago.  Until ‘something’ happens!  Perhaps one day we are faced with the distressed cries of a hurt child, and these cries reverberate deep inside, and suddenly we hear the cries of the small child we locked away all those years ago by not believing its hurt – the small child we once were. In that instant we experience not only the pain of the time we hurt ourselves and were not acknowledged, but also the pain of all the tears of hurt that we shed throughout our lives, from all the times we felt ignored or insignificant.

Overwhelmed by this unexpected wave of emotion, we know we need to shut it off quickly. So we turn to the reason for the way we feel now – the crying child in front of us.  We shush the child, just as we were shushed, or smack the child as we were smacked. We know it’s the only way, that it’s for the child’s own good, just as it was for ours.  We do the best we can, just as our parents before us did the best they could at the time. And we try to push our uncomfortable or distressing feeling back under lock and key in our storage system.

There are many different events that can trigger a response from our storage system. Sometimes we recognise these times retrospectively, when we realise that we have over-reacted in some way and dumped a huge load of anger, sadness, or some other emotion onto a relatively minor incident. Our storage system is vastly complex, but has a certain logic to it – the logic of association.

(read more of this in Sue’s book “Peace of Mind – Pathways to Successful Living”)

Live your life as if you were the boatman of an empty boat

Live your life as if you were the boatman of an empty boat

The Taoist sage Chuang-Tzu is a Chinese writer from the 4th Century BCE (Before the Christian Era). He shows us a way of looking at our lives and gives us one of the earliest Cognitive Therapy lessons into the bargain! See what you make of him.

If a man is crossing a river
And an empty boat collides with his own skiff
Even though he be a bad tempered man
He will not become very angry.
But if he sees a man in the boat,
He will shout at him to steer clear.
If his shout is not heard, he will shout again.
And yet again, and begin cursing.
And all because there is someone in the boat.
Yet if the boat were empty,
He would not be shouting and angry.
If you can empty your own boat
Crossing the river of the world,
No one will oppose you,
No one will seek to harm you.

boatman