How to Feel Your Feelings

Emotions are neither good nor bad. They are messengers. The body stores emotions until they are fully processed. Over time, unprocessed feelings start to manifest physically, surfacing as stress, tension, or even ailments. Ancient traditions have known this truth for a long time: to process feelings, we have to feel them. We can’t ignore them and hope they will just disappear. 

First, we need to understand what emotions are. To do that, we need language to define and name them. When we name something, we make it more real and easier to communicate about. Look up emotions and their definitions. In Atlas of the Heart, author Brené Brown lists 87 emotions, detailing each with definitions. Knowing which emotion you are feeling when you’re feeling it helps immensely when it’s time to process it.

Locate the feeling in your body. Where in your body is the feeling, and what does it feel like? Does it show up like a ball of tightness in your stomach when you are anxious? When you are heartbroken, does it show up as a deep, sinking pain in your chest? 

When you have a feeling or work with a difficult memory, sit with your body, breathe, and listen. Ask yourself questions, like “Where am I feeling this?” and “What does it feel like?” Take note of the memories and thoughts that come up. What are the voices in your head saying? Write about it in your journal. Be patient with yourself. Remember: Working with stored emotions, and dealing with the memories that come up, can be terribly difficult. 

Treat each emotion you experience as a friend who is visiting for tea. Allow them to come in and sit awhile, talk with you, teach you, and then let them go when you have heard their message. Whatever you do, don’t invite them to move in with you and overstay their welcome. 

Shame: Intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.” (Brene Brown) 

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