Getting in touch with authentic feeling is an ongoing process.
Some want their process to be “done”–as if they’ve got something better to do. We don’t. Whatever we do without being in touch with ourselves is vaguely unsatisfying at best.
The clarity we get from knowing our selves and effectively addressing what we really need is inherently satisfying, whether or not we can get what we want. This process relies on authentic feeling.
Learning what our sensations mean initiates self discovery.
Like many of us, I entered young adulthood with a vague sense of the relationship between my emotions and body sensations. I could be overcome by a stew of feelings and their flood of sensations and have only a general idea of what I was going through. Sometimes I got all up in my head so I didn’t actually FEEL my feelings. I thought it was enough to KNOW what they were, but did not give them actual expression.
Knowing does not create release. Rationalized emotion circles around and distorts the way we think instead of arising, building sensation, cresting, and ebbing away like emotion and sensation do when we let them flow.
I began to explore what I was feeling by ‘trying on’ an emotion–saying the name of it while tasting it with my body, to see if the emotion I thought it might be fit my sensations. I asked myself, “What emotion is associated with this sensation?” I also thought about what people look like when they feel it, and what my own posture was expressing. After a while I could I could recognize emotions by feel.
Those raised by parents who accurately mirrored their feelings back to them and acknowledged those feelings in words naturally recognize what they feel. They may find it odd that anyone cannot. In my clinical experience, most people are pretty sketchy about a lot of what goes on inside.
We may not know what we REALLY feel, and substitute in our minds what we think we SHOULD feel, what is SAFE to feel, or what we image someone else might WANT us to feel.
Pay careful attention to your body sensations when you have a feeling, like noticing the resonance of musical chords as they vibrate through you, activating different areas. Sense and memorize what specific emotions feel like in your body and nervous system, so you can recognize them when they arise.
By being in touch with our authentic feelings we begin to understand what they mean and what we need. This leads to being able to respond authentically, and supports the ability to set clear and effective boundaries.
Explore what feelings mean in different contexts. When I am doing Inner Work, for example, a sense of dread means I am on track with something important. Shame means part of me wants to hide something. Fear means I need some kind of support from myself to move forward, like committing myself to take care of an underlying need. Anger means I need to establish a better boundary. The same feelings may mean something else in a session or a relationship.
When tracking down hidden feelings you are not done if you . . . :
- Feel you are moving away from something you don’t like
- Sense something sliding around or trying to hide
- Are in a state of unresolve
- Have any internal conflict
- Feel resistance to your best course of action
- Think something about your process is vague
- Have an urge to distract yourself
- Feel uneasiness, fear or panic
- Have a suspicious urge to eat, drink or smoke something, talk with someone, exercise or work to distract yourself
Getting to the bottom of an issue can feel like . . . :
- Moving into a clearing or having open space
- Solidity and clarity
- Ease or peace
- A sense of understanding that uproots distress
- Having a sense of who you really are
- Knowing what you need or what to do
- Clarity about your boundaries
- Openness to discovery
Useful questions for self-clarification:
What am I trying to get, or avoid right now? What am I hoping for?
How can I get what I need openly and directly, or supply it to myself?
Is there anything about this situation that I find threatening? If so, is there any way that I can I support myself to reduce or eliminate that threat?