When you make the choice to “feel all the feels” – you’re also choosing to return home to yourself.
Emotions are messengers from your soul.
Embrace them and accept them for what they are and you give yourself permission to listen.
To honestly hear the things that are deeply and authentically meaningful to you.
To know when how you’re living is not in alignment with what you need and want.
To understand what feels like honouring yourself and what feels like self-abandonment.
Resisting or avoiding unwanted emotional experiences means you might miss an important memo.
After all, your loneliness might mean you value connection and need to foster it with yourself or others.
Your anxiety might mean something or someone is genuinely important to you.
Your anger might mean a significant boundary you hold has been crossed. Or perhaps a painful narrative you hold about yourself has been triggered.
There are endless possibilities.
And it is only when we choose to sit and listen to these soul messengers, that we might make a transformative discovery.
So, how can we begin to tune in?
According to Dr. Russ Harris (2019), the first step is to mindfully acknowledge our initial emotional or psychological reaction. This may involve non-judgementally noticing and naming the parts of our emotional response (thoughts, feelings, sensations, urges, impulses, etc) that are showing up. With openness and curiosity, we may observe how our mind is interpreting the situation and our emotional reaction. For example, if we notice the feeling of anxiety before a social gathering, we may also notice our mind saying something like “Why are you anxious? You shouldn’t be anxious. Get over it!”.
After we have noticed the emotional reaction and our mind’s unhelpful interpretation, we can become curious about the workability of these cognitive processes. That is, if we allow these thoughts to dictate how we choose to act, do they move us towards or away from our values & a meaningful life? In the example, being harsh towards anxiety would likely take us away from what we want. It could create more anxiety about anxiety, or demotivate us to seek connection socially.
Once we have recognized this, we may reinterpret the emotional reaction in a way that facilitates grounding, acceptance, and self-compassion. Some examples of this may include offering ourselves statements such as:
- “I’m having the feeling of anxiety”
- “I have room for this feeling of anxiety; no matter how bit it gets, it can’t get bigger than me”
- “This is a moment of suffering; everyone feels like this at times”
- “I’m willing to make room for this feeling, even though I don’t like it”
- “Feelings come and feelings go”
- “This feeling of anxiety can’t harm me. I don’t need to run from it or fight it”
This allows us to expand into the emotion, rather than constricting away from the emotion. Once we expand, we are then open to receiving the messages contained within our emotional experience. And this makes all the difference in being able to choose actions guided by what’s truly valuable to our souls.
Emotional Regulation Strategies in ACT: A Practical Guide for Therapists by Dr. Russ Harris (2019)
Kaylee Garside, MA, has extensive experience in the areas of mindfulness and acceptance practices, plus many more. For more information on Kaylee and her work, click here to link to her full bio page.