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Embrace your feelings to prevent them from overwhelming you

May 15, 2023

Do you feel like you often have to pull yourself together and that it would be shameful to show your true feelings in front of other people or even yourself?

Chances are that you’ve been brought up like this. That it’s something you’ve learned at school and you still experience at work or even within your family.

“The strong survive”

“Crying is a sign of weakness”

“Don’t be a wimp”

Sentences like these imply that showing your honest feelings in a certain (or in any) situation is not appropriate / weak / shameful / …

One consequence of this is that we start judging ourselves for our feelings up to the point of denying them.

For example, I can be very emotional and I don’t feel uncomfortable crying even in public places when I FEEL like it. I don’t want to suggest that we all have to be able to cry in front of strangers but when you let yourself feel your feelings - the challenging and joyful ones - you immediately feel lighter and don’t let them get stuck in your body and mind.

Suppressing your feelings for the sake of maintaining some false sense of composure can be really harmful. Countless studies have shown how this can lead to serious health issues. Burnout. Depression. Cancer. Chronic illness… But it also just plain doesn’t feel good in the moment to have to “be strong” (or whatever it is for you) when the truth is that you are feeling weak, vulnerable, hurt, or otherwise in pain.

One of my favorite exercises from Joy Academy is so helpful in these moments, because it supports you to notice when you’re overwhelmed by feelings and get a healthy distance between you and the situation at hand. This allows you to have time to consciously react and decide how you want to deal with the emotions that are naturally coming up inside of you.

On to the exercise, are you ready to do some scientist’s work?

Imagine being your own guinea pig, put on a scientist’s professionalism and maintain a professional distance to the study object (you : )) at hand. What’s very important through this process: Observe the guinea pig (you), don’t judge the guinea pig.

Throughout this exercise you’ll begin to notice:

  • Are there recurring situations where you are overwhelmed by your feelings?
  • What feelings overwhelm you?
  • How do you typically react to those feelings?
    • Avoiding, ignoring, shutting off, letting them out, distracting yourself…
  • How do you feel afterwards when you look back at that situation? 
    • Relieved, ashamed, better, worse, still emotional, untouched…

Let’s go on an imaginary walk through some situations to get a feeling (it’s all about the feelings, do you notice? : )) of what I’m talking about. In the Joy Academy I go even deeper on this topic and how you can set anchors that help you stay centered in any situation, but for now we’ll stick to the examples at hand!

As you read each of the situations below, notice how you feel when you imagine that this is real and happening to you right now. Our inner scientist will help us make sense of the feelings in a moment.

Situation 1:
Imagine, you’re about to put the bags onto the kitchen table, your partner storms into the room and tells you that he’ll be gone the whole week because of some stupid business trip that he didn’t know about before? Or forgot about it? Or what the heck??

Situation 2:
Imagine when you’ve just delivered a presentation to your team that you’ve put a lot of heart and effort into and the first thing your boss says is that you “could’ve tried harder but at least it does its purpose.”

Situation 3:
Imagine that you’ve agreed to go to the family party with your parents although you secretly loathe seeing all your oh so lovely aunts and uncles and cousins and heeeeelp! and when you walk through the entrance the first thing that happens is the fifth wife of uncle Jim rushing towards you, asking if you’re finally pregnant and what a cute dress that emphasizes your belly. Obviously you’re not pregnant and yes you’re trying for ages to get pregnant and yes she’s aware of that.

What was your reaction as you imagined these things happening to you, right now? Simply notice it—you can even write it in your journal!—as it is giving us information to work with later. It’s also helpful to note what’s actually happening, so that you have the context when you read through it.

Your scientist’s notes for the situations above could look something like:

Situation 1:
Shopping done, slightly exhausted, partner rushes in, unexpected news, all plans upside down, guinea pig (GP in short, use your name here if that suits you better : )) starts crying, partner doesn’t know what’s wrong, they fight, both unhappy, no real solution. Feelings: Sad, frustrated, not taken seriously, unimportant, unloved.

Situation 2:
Presentation delivered, GP is satisfied with work, unconstructive criticism from boss, GP feeling really angry inside but swallowing it down, GP readily agrees to make it better next time, GP excusing themselves and rushing to the bathroom to secretly spill some tears, GP feeling ashamed of being too emotional and not professional. Feelings: Angry, not treated fairly, powerless, helpless.

Situation 3:
GP goes to a family party, aunt makes an untactful comment about pregnancy, GP puts a smile on face, excuses herself and secretly cries in the bathroom, GP puts on some makeup to cover any traces. GP tries to pretend that everything is fine. Feelings: Heartbroken, hopeless, misunderstood, weak.

Now that you see what was happening and how you felt in the situations, what to do with this? We make a plan for future situations like the ones described.

By the way, if by reading these examples, some examples of your own life have come up, even better! Feel free to write those down and work through them instead of these practice scenarios.

It’s different for all of us how we react and how we want to react, so I will show different possibilities. Please adjust it so that it is right for you. Also I’ll write it in the “I”-form, so that when you read it, you really feel it.

Situation 1:
When I’m in a situation like this it’s okay to cry and/or feel upset. Instead of shouting at my partner and slamming the door, I retreat for as long as I need and go back to my partner when I feel ready to tell them why this wasn’t ideal for me so that we can talk about how to avoid this in the future. By letting my feelings be, I take myself seriously and give myself the space that I need in that moment.

Situation 2:
When I’m in a situation like this it’s okay to be irritated and/or feel upset. Instead of swallowing down my anger, I take a moment to gather myself and cordially ask what exactly I could’ve done better so that I have some feedback to build upon. It’s okay to excuse myself for a moment if I still need some time afterwards and I don’t have to hide in the toilet but rather go out in front of the door to get some fresh air.

Situation 3:
When I’m in a situation like this it’s okay to be sad and/or angry. Instead of pretending that all is well, I friendly reply that I’m not pregnant, please don’t ask me ever again, I’ll tell you when I AM pregnant and if you'll excuse me, I’m taking over the buffet now.

Do you get an idea how you can use the neutral information that you get from observing yourself in everyday situations to get a new perspective on things and to create a new set of possible reactions that help you feel what you feel and then let it go?

Actions like the scientist’s observation game help you accept how you’re feeling in that very moment. You acknowledge the situation and therefore create space to shift without the emotions lingering somewhere in your body or mind and suddenly overcoming you again or growing into a headache or something even worse.

When you feel comfortable within yourself and when you're in tune with your inner kind (!) voice, you will experience that you can stand by your feelings and you don't have to hide or suppress them. As you’ll soon see,  this is the key to having more joy and lightness in your life, without necessarily even having to change or fix anything.

Are you ready to allow your true feelings and therefore live more true to yourself? Join the Joy Academy, a one year journey where you are guided to find what’s “missing” from your already pretty good life so that you can experience more joy and lightness every single day. You learn to prioritize yourself in the most unselfish way possible and honor your desires and feelings so that you can feel focused, peaceful, and enjoy your life more.

Check out all the details
here or book a call with me if you’d like to join but want to make sure that it’s the right decision.



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