Discover the Difference
Understanding your feelings and emotions and knowing what to do with them is key to making progress towards the life you want to experience. So let’s define what a feeling (or emotion) is. A feeling begins in the brain in the form of a thought. We think a thought, and then the brain releases an appropriate chemical and that chemical vibrating through the body is what we call an emotion. A sensation on the other hand begins in the body, not the brain. It may be physical pain or hunger. It starts in the body and then travels to the brain and tells you to make a change, get some food or sleep.
In order to get some leverage over your emotions, it is important to pay attention to them. But awareness of these emotions does not mean it will eliminate them. When you learn that your thinking is the reason for all your feelings, it can be tempting to want to change your thinking immediately so you can feel better. Sometimes this works, but many times it doesn’t last. Instead, we would be far better off just allowing the feelings for a while.
When negative emotions come up we have 4 options:
Resist. Life coach, Jody Moore equates resisting emotion to holding a beach ball under water it wants to pop up but we hold it down building pressure around it. Many of us do this when we try to “grin and bear it”, or “power through”. It’s a tightening within us and an attempt to distract from it. Most people do this as a form of trying to “choose happiness” which is a great concept but can sometimes create resisting emotion.
When we resist emotion, it’s like the beach ball building pressure until it pops WAY up out of the water. This may look like explosive actions such as yelling or even violence. Or it may look like overindulgence in eating or spending. It can create stress related health problems, increased blood pressure, migraines etc. The bottom line is resisting emotions just intensifies them. If you’re feeling sad but you’re resisting sadness, then you layer resistance on top of sadness and now you have compounded the negative effect.
React. This means allowing the emotion to drive us and we are operating at the effect of it. Our behavior may be out of control or out of alignment with you we want to be.
Avoid. Avoiding emotion means that we are trying to outrun, escape or distract ourselves from it through some sort of buffer. It may be eating, shopping, working, exercising, scrolling social media, drinking etc. While these behaviors may not be problematic in and of themselves--when we indulge in them as a distraction in order to escape a negative emotion, there is usually a negative side effect. If i eat because I’m bored or stressed, than I may have health/weight problems as a result and aIso have not solved for the boredom or the stress. Instead to make my life more exciting or to try to feel good, I ate cookies.
Process. This option is the one that will bring you peace, health and emotional strength. When we process emotions, we no longer have to resist, react or avoid them. We just allow them. We breathe into and actually feel them. You may worry that this will intensify the emotion even more--but it actually has the opposite effect.
The process is simple but sounds bizarre, the steps are also set out in our processing emotion worksheet
Name the emotion. Use a one-word description (you can refer to this “sample emotions” list).
For example: This is worry.
Get out of your head and into your body. Where is that worry centered inside you? What does it physically feel like? How would you describe it to another person?
For example: It’s a tightness in my stomach and a heaviness in my chest. It feels fast and tight and it is a steady buzz.
Get as descriptive as you can as you try to truly experience the emotion and make friends with it.
For example: I feel you worry. You are heavy and hot. There you are. You rise up inside me and then subside but then you rise up again. You are a sticky green color and you move fast, then slow through me. You are only here because of thoughts in my mind but I can handle worry. I will be worried for a while. Worry is just an emotion and I can feel it.
Creating Emotion Intentionally
Remember that you can experience any emotion any time and when they come, just allow them. But you can also create useful emotions intentionally and plan to live from the emotions that will serve you best. This is done by planning in advance and then creating emotions on purpose.
The first step is decide what it is you want to accomplish. It may be a specific task that you are going to be working on or it may just be your daily schedule. Then ask yourself what emotion you want to have fueling you for that task. Remember that “useful” emotions aren’t always the ones that feel good. But useful emotions typically energize us or open us up to possibilities and potential. For example, determination is a useful emotion. But it includes some pushing back on something challenging. Courage is also useful but without a little fear there is no need for courage. Some other emotions that are useful include: focus, commitment, discipline, confidence, gratitude, abundance and love.
Once you identify the emotion you want driving you, you’ll need to consider what thought will creates that emotion for you. Perhaps it’s “I’ve got this. I will do whatever it takes. I have an amazing life. This is going to be fun. I will not stop until I’m finished.” The key is to find one that generates the emotion and is also believable to you. Use our top emotions worksheet to explore this further!