I have a question for you. And it's a question I will often ask in sessions. "How are you feeling right now?"
I'm curious about what comes to your mind.
Some people, quite a few people actually just have no idea. It's like, I'm feeling good, I'm fine.
If you're one of the many people who have difficulties with this, you're not alone.
There are many reasons why you may not be able to easily identify what you are feeling - including the fact that many people actually don't really care! But this article is about YOU knowing how you are really feeling. This is a part of living a more mindful life and taking responsibility for your overall self-care . Below are five things that might be getting in the way for you, and then what you can do about it. I do not discuss trauma in this article, or anxiety and other mental health conditions that can cause difficulties in accessing emotions. The five I have chosen are behaviours and habits that everyone can fall into with realising it.
The first is DISTRACTION. There are so many things that distract us and take us out of ourselves on a day-to-day basis, not the least being, the 24 hour digital world we live in. Whether it be social media, watching YouTube videos, Netflix or Foxtel, there's so much you can tune into any second of the day and never have to be alone with yourself, your thoughts and your feelings. Distraction is a huge blockage that can get in the way of knowing how you really feel.
If you experience the distraction of this 24 hour digital world and would like some help in switching it off, I have created a 7 Step Digital Detox Program to help you create some time and space for yourself where you can get rid of one of those distractions. Did you know that the statistics around how often people pick up their phone is amazing. It’s about once every five or 10 minutes. And the number of people who, the first thing they do in the morning is not check in with themselves, but check in with what random people are doing on Facebook or Instagram. Hands up if you can relate to either of these things. I know I definitely get hooked into this from time to time.
Ok, the next three obstacles I’m grouping together and calling them REASONS. This covers justification, explanation and blame. In these situations you can identify what you are feeling but you fare stepping into your logical mind instead of allowing yourself the experience.
For example. “Oh, I'm feeling pretty tired, but I didn't sleep real well. And you know, maybe if I've gone to bed early or I wouldn't feel quite so tired” or “I'm feeling okay today, but you know, I had time to myself and I was able to go for a walk and unlike other days where I don't get that sort of time”.
Blame is when you are attributing your feelings to what someone else did. For example, “I'm feeling really angry and it's your fault because you cut me off” or “it's your fault because you didn't do the dishes”. “I'm feeling really frustrated because they didn't ring me when they were supposed to”. So your emotion is all about what someone else did to you.
I'm not saying some of these things didn't happen and some of them might not have contributed to your frustration or your anger or your happiness or whatever you're feeling. However, allowing yourself to go down this train of thought is taking you away from what you are feeling right now and interfering with your ability to experience that emotion fully.
So why does that matter? Why is it important to experience that emotion fully? We'll come back to that because we've got one more thing of the five things that get in the way of you answering that question. How you feeling right now? The fifth one is SHAME.
When you experience shame you tend to dismiss your feelings as being valid. “I shouldn't be feeling sad. I've got no reason to feel sad”. “Oh, I shouldn't be feeling jealous”, or “I shouldn't be feeling happy. I don't really deserve to feel happy because I'm such a bad person”. Whatever the reason is, wherever that shame comes from, it's getting in the way.
If you're serious about connecting with yourself, understanding what is important to you in your life, working out how you want to live, and the sort of person you want to be. If you want to feel comfortable being yourself, if you want to develop inner calm connection and confidence, you NEED to know how you are feeling. I mean, this is you. No one else can tell you HOW you're feeling or WHAT to feel. After you have worked on increasing your awareness of what you are feeling, the second step is to giving yourself permission to feel that way. To sit and fully experiencing your current emotion and allow it to do its job – to give you messages, to give you feedback about whether you are living the life that YOU want to be living.
To explain this a little bit more. If you're feeling happy, you are receiving a message that you're content, that you're doing things that are important to you, that you have people around you who, who matter. You are receiving positive feedback. If you're feeling angry, that's great information too. You are realising that something is not right here. There may be an injustice you want to fix. There is something in your life that you want to change. If you are locked out of your emotions, or you are trying to justify or deny them, you are less likely to hear those messages. And that's going to interfere once again with your ability to lead a calm and confident, connected life. All right? So next time someone asks you how you feeling or when you take the time, which is what I really hope you do to check in with yourself and ask yourself how you are feeling,
You can work on this. Practice doing checking in with your emotions during the day, in an unfiltered. Practice being aware of what your mind wants to chime in with and direct your awareness back to your feeling.
Okay. So before I go, I want to remind you about the 7 Step Digital Detox Program, because I'm really excited to provide you with some structure to make it as easy as possible for you to switch off.
Until next time, take care of yourself.
* My aim is for these posts is meant to useful, interesting and/or inspiring. They are not designed to be used for therapy..
Kim Dunn is a Child Psychologist and Founder of Positive Young Minds.