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Our Thoughts are Not Our Feelings

Our Thoughts are Not Our Feelings

“The fastest way to freedom is to feel your feelings”.

Gita Bellin

We often get confused about whether we are feeling or thinking.  It is so easy to get lost in our thoughts and assume those thoughts are feelings.  Often I ask, “What are you feeling right now?  Where do you hold those feelings in your body?”  And often I will get a  response that is thought about instead of felt.

Emotion is defined by the dictionary as a strong feeling.  Feeling is defined as the ability to experience physical sensation, an awareness, an emotion. Very often feelings are fueled by our thoughts. There is a metaphysical saying that says something like, “What you think, you become”.  That certainly gives our thoughts a whole lot of power.

Many people were taught to deny their feelings.  Or learned to tuck their feelings away for fear of reprisal.  For so many of us, our feelings went unacknowledged, never valued.  In my family, I was the one who carried the burden of all the unexpressed feelings. We grew up in a violent physically and sexually abusive home.  The fear, anger, and sadness went unexpressed.  The feelings were clearly unwelcome.  So, I learned to think about my feelings, not feel them, and certainly not to express them.  It took years of therapy and body work to acknowledge and feel my feelings.

When we don’t want to feel our feelings or don’t know how, it is easy to ask someone else to carry them for us.  There is a huge difference between sharing our pain and asking someone else to bear that pain for us. In the years I have worked with people, one important  boundary I have stayed aware of is my unwillingness to take on another’s feelings.  I can hear those feelings, bring compassion and acknowledgement of their feelings and not take them on as mine.

There are two reasons I don’t believe we can/should take on another’s feelings.  One is out of respect.  This is their life and these are their feelings.  If I take them on, then I am assuming they can’t or won’t feel them themselves. I am taking away their right to their own feelings.  Also, it feels arrogant to me to assume I have the right to define for anyone else what their feelings are or to take them away.

There is a difference between naming and understanding a thing and feeling or experiencing a thing.  There is a difference between articulating something at arm’s length and embracing that something and allowing all our feelings about it.  Just like there is a difference between painting a beautiful red apple and actually tasting it.  And there is a difference between watching life go by, thinking about it and all our experiences, and just diving in, take a risk and learning to feel our feelings.

We gain courage and strength from feeling our feelings.  As we learn to feel, know what we feel, we grow.  We can become stronger, more resilient emotionally mature adults from being allowed to recognize and feel our feelings.

Often we ask another to hold our feelings because we don’t want to take the risk to ask them to hold us.  If we grew up not being allowed our feelings, or paying a price for having our feelings; being considered, “too sensitive,” then it is more difficult to reach out and ask someone to hold us while we feel our own feelings. We risk the price of rejection.

What is not expressed becomes depression.  A feeling of being shut down.  It takes courage to realize in life that the more we allow our feelings,the more we risk and ask to be acknowledged,  the more alive we will feel.  The more empowered we will feel.  When we can feel our anger, sadness, fear, joy, then we can come to life with a stronger sense of ourselves.  The more we give  voice to our feelings, the more connection we have to our heart.

Take a minute, stop reading this article and just sit with yourself.  Go inside and just listen.  What do you hear?  Can you feel your body?  Can you identify at least one feeling you are having right now?  What does it feel like?  Where are you feeling it in your body?  What happens when you actually feel your feelings?  For just a minute, see if you can open your heart to whatever it is you are feeling.  How does it feel to have your heart open to yourself?   Acknowledge your feelings.  Acknowledge your courage to be able to sit with an open heart.

If you practiced this exercise just once a day, you would begin find yourself more comfortable with your feelings. It would open your world up to yourself.  It would build your emotional strength, give you a feeling of well-being and help you grow resiliency.  Feeling your feelings is the beginning of emotional freedom and the foundation for speaking your truth, showing up in a more powerful way in all your relationships.  And certainly the foundation for being more authentically you. Begin today by finding and allowing the people in your life that are emotionally safe to you to practice feeling and expressing your true self.  Feel what it feels like to be heard and acknowledged. And watch your inner strength and courage grow.

Blessings to you,

Ann Sheppard