The Other F****** Word

Posted by on Sep 8, 2015 in emotions, feelings, Therapy

succulant abstract close up

When thinking of a title for this article, several variations on the theme came to mind:

Feelings: Everybody Has Them

I Feel, Therefore I am

Yeah, I Have Feelings. So What?

Feelings 101

I Have Feelings?

Feelings, Nothing More than Feelings

Feelings…I Would Rather Talk About Sex.

I was looking for a way to approach a subject that’s often challenging to talk about. There are a lot of overt and covert messages in our society that devalue and expect feelings to take a back seat to logic or reason. So, what I’m trying to do with the title is make it okay to talk about feelings.

My own feelings about this entry are excitement and apprehension. I am excited to be able to write about a topic that is so universal and a part of everyday life. I’m also apprehensive that the subject matter by itself may inadvertently turn some people away before giving it a chance.  Many of us grew up in families where feelings were not discussed or only certain feelings were acceptable to share. We may have frequently heard statements like:

“You shouldn’t feel that way.”

“Don’t feel that way.”

“I don’t know how to feel in this circumstance.”

“She is so emotional.”

“He is so unfeeling.”

The bigger message in those words are that there are right and wrong feelings. That someone should or should not feel a certain way about a situation, and that the correct feeling is obvious and universal. If this is true for you and you wish to continue in this way, then stop here and go live life. However, if this resonates with you and you are ready to be challenged, please read on. Your feelings may want some recognition and  validation.

A different perspective about feelings is that feelings are merely a human way of taking in information about a subject or situation. Similar to sensing the outside environment in terms of touch, sight, sound, taste and smell, feelings offer humans information.  And just like sensing the warm heat of the sun on a sunny day, there is no good or bad, no right or wrong.  It is just information to accept without judgement, that you may use to make decisions. The warmth may remind you to apply sunscreen to protect your skin, or you may decide to take off your sweater to regulate your body temperature.

Taking in information through feelings works similarly. Spilling your drink during a meal might evoke feelings of disappointment, embarrassment, sadness, worry, or excitement. Each of us has our own set of feelings that could surface. If you’re worried about ruining something, you may decide to quickly remove your iPhone from the table to mitigate the damage. Embarrassment may lead you to decide to use a stack of nearby napkins to sop up the liquid and get rid of the evidence of the accident. Perhaps spilling the drink was the most exciting thing to happen that day and you think that you could use a little more spontaneity in your life, so you decide to take the afternoon off and go see a matinee.

Learning to identify and label feelings allows us to take in more information. We often find that there are several feelings that can be applied to any given situation. This characteristic of being human can be wonderfully complex. Yes, you can and do have seemingly conflicting feelings about situations and events all the time. No wonder why some decisions are difficult to make.  Furthermore, feelings can and do change with time and different perspectives making them moving targets for gathering information.

All of this can leave a person with more questions:

Wonderful, I have feelings that I can name! Now what?!

What if I don’t like this feeling?

Can you change a feeling?

There’s no word in my language for this feeling. Isn’t that interesting?

What do I do about other peoples’ feelings?

Having more questions is a sign of a curious mind.

If you are new to focusing on feelings, welcome.  You might find talking to a therapist may help you on your journey to accept and manage these emotions. Especially if you are struggling with strong emotions or ones that change dramatically, reaching out to a professional can help you address these challenges.

I am looking forward to writing more entries in this series on feelings.  Please visit again for more on this subject.

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