My client looked at me a bit disgruntled and said “I really hate the “F” word.” What was he talking about? Feelings. I have used that line about the “F” word many times since and it resonates with a lot of people.
What people mean when they say that they hate the “F” word is that they don’t know how to give label or express their feelings and they don’t see the value in feelings. What they come to find out in therapy is that feelings are incredibly important and they are not the nemesis clients initially thought they were.
Why is knowing what your feelings are and expressing them important? There are a number of reasons.
- It is emotions that bind us. If you want a close, lasting relationship it is in the honest and kind expression of emotions that builds the security that you are connected to another person. From infancy to our death, we each desire connection with others and expressing emotions is a critical comment to that connection.
- Feelings give us information about ourselves that we cannot access intellectually. We may be distant from our spouse and think the reason is him/her when the real issue is you are afraid of getting close, you are afraid of being hurt. In this situation your feelings are guiding your behaviors towards another but you are unaware until you listen and get to know your own feelings.
- Many times it is our emotions that are directing our decisions and actions and we are completely unaware thinking it is only our astute intellect. Witness the husband who moves his family across country much to the distress of his family. He tells them and himself, we need to move because this is a better business opportunity for me. When the business opportunity does not materialize and he ends up in therapy, he discovers that his desire to put space between him and his abusive parents was really the motivation for seeing the move as positive for his family. He was unaware but now can work on becoming aware of his feelings and make better decisions.
To begin learning about your emotions, this is a simple exercise I use – set the alarm on your phone to three times a day (doesn’t matter when, whatever works for you). When the alarm goes off, ask yourself this one question – what am I feeling right now? You are not looking for any great insight into yourself, you are developing the skill of knowing how you feel at any given moment of the day. When you first start this exercise, you may not know what you feel, but don’t give up! The emotions will start to bubble up and you will be able to identify them.
Learn about yourself. Listen to your feelings to see what they say about you. It is worth the struggle to learn.