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  • Karen Sussan, LMHC

How Are You Feeling?

Updated: Oct 17, 2023

Q: How are you feeling?            A: Oh, I’m fine.

That’s how the exchange goes, along with that glossy response, no matter how we are actually feeling.

Many people actually prefer to gloss over feelings, viewing them as ‘messy’. Others struggle with feelings, recognizing they might be key to self-improvement. Some even seek therapy for it.

Our well-being requires tuning into our feelings. After all, emotions are a part of our natural makeup and their effective regulation improves our overall functioning.

To regulate feelings, you have to first:

  1. notice them

  2. allow for them

  3. identify them.

There are some who can flood with feelings, which is a problem– but for those people whose feelings are remote, these initial observational steps may take effort. And, if there is a history of intergenerational trauma, work with feelings tends to border on courageous.

After identifying feelings, next comes tolerating feelings.

Good mental health requires toleration of emotions– positive and negative ones.

Ultimately, learning to manage complex webs of emotions improves our functioning and enables us to find greater agency.

If you have difficulties with anger, fear, and other negative emotions, you are not alone.

–But, it might surprise you that experiences with positive feelings are also a challenge for some people.

Honestly, both positive and negative feelings have their place. Both are impermanent. Now, here’s a Budhhist exercise–watching the impermanence of our feelings!

This is not just a question of how full a person views the glass.

Many people develop maladaptive coping strategies based on assumptions, conscious or not. With those nearly automatic beliefs in full swing, these people wind up viewing negative feelings as enduring and positive feelings as fleeting. But we all know that both experiences, the positive and negative ones, come and go. After all, ALL moments come and go.

When it comes to feelings, a comparison to the weather can help. The weather comes and goes….So do feelings.

So, how might such insight that help you manage your feelings more effectively? One option is to adjust your internal language, your self-talk.

Here are the words of the Irish poet, P. O. Puama, to inspire you:

“In Irish when you talk about an emotion, you don’t say, ‘I am sad.’ You’d say, ‘Sadness is on me – Ta’ Bron Orm.’ I love that because there’s an implication of not identifying yourself with the emotion fully. I am not sad, it’s just that sadness is on me for a while. Something else will be on me another time, and that’s a good thing to recognize.”

So here’s an exercise that might help you change your internal language, your self-talk, about your feelings:

  1. Say you are ‘in a cloud of feeling sad or angry’. Like the weather, it too shall pass.

  2. Or even more radically, try using this Irish phraseology.  See if its use changes your perspective on your feelings, especially upon your expectations for the duration of a feeling. Say to yourself, for example, “Sadness is on me” instead of “I am sad”.

If you try it, does one or both of these two phrases impact the way you experience those feelings?

I would love to know. I welcome feedback on your experimentation.

Of course, you can also contact me or another therapist to address difficulties with feelings more thoroughly.

I am available to work together on this important life changing enterprise. I invite you to consider this option.

Reach out to me and begin to transform the way deal with feelings.

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