Feel the Feelings

Change your thoughts – think more postive – you become your thoughts – thoughts become your destiny. But what if it’s not about your thoughts?

I got stuck and for some time I wasn’t sure how to become unstuck.

The answer was simple, ‘I need time and space with myself‘. The reality has been harder to achieve; fighting my own default to continue to help others and ignore my own needs, and having this default reflected back from others that haven’t been able to hear my words. Its really not about anyone else, its about me having quiet time to preserve my mental health.

I am still grieving, hurt, angry, sad, in despair, in rage about experiences I have gone through in the last several years and I got stuck here. I have cried, I have shouted and screamed, I have journalled…I have tried a lot of therapies and counselling approaches. Yes I did, but actually I did this about one traumatic experience, and I wasn’t done with processing it. Then life continued, and negative experiences piled up for processing onto top of that one. I did not have time and space (and money) to continue to express my feelings and emotions as I had earlier. So I went back to my default, something that is free and works well – or it wouldn’t be a default – I blocked emotions and feelings so I could function and continue in life. Thoughts came up about those negative experiences and my feelings would emerge, so I would change the thoughts with something like ‘it could always be worse’.

Eckhardt Tolle says its all about accepting the now. Does every part of me really accept the present? No, I haven’t made time and space to process it all. So yeah most of me knows what happened, but there is still a part of me that can not accept those experiences really did. In other words, even though those experiences are in the past, without my 100% acceptance, they are still in my present. If you find yourself here i.e. something so unacceptable has happened, that a part of you or all of you cant accept it, then there is another way to become unstuck…

…Feel the feelings; just sit with them in your quiet moments. Just acknowledge them, give them attention. Put them in the spotlight and witness them. Book those quiet moments in your diary, you need time and space. Create your time and space for this process, little and often; else they will collectively build up and you may find yourself forced into creating time and space for this work and it will take much longer.

Begin with your emotions

We all have innate emotions, they are not taught, they are with us from birth. They are ways of keeping us safe and well, and a way of us communicating our needs. Unlike the rest of the animal kingdom, human babies are not up and running within a short amount of time. It takes a while for us humans to develop our speech, to walk and to feed ourselves. Because of this we are programmed to attach to our primary care giver and adapt to them, as they are fundamental to our survival.

Our emotions are forms of immediate experience

Our emotions are lower level responses occurring in the subcortical regions of the brain i.e. the amygdala (part of the limbic system) and the neocortex; whilst the ventromedial prefrontal cortices deal with conscious thoughts, reasoning, and decision making (and this part of the brain develops in our teenage years, which is why we need a lot more sleep then). Emotions can be measured through bodily reactions as neurotransmitters and hormones activate the brain.

When we are experiencing our emotions, we are in direct contact with our physical reality. They are expressed in our body sometimes before we are aware of them. Emotions form the blue print for our thinking, acting and decision making; they are innate biological motivators. Without emotions, in the words of James Hetfield ‘nothing else matters’ but with emotion, anything can matter.

Emotions form the blue print for thinking, acting and decision making

The subtle difference between Emotions and Feelings

Feelings are sparked by emotions and originate in the neocortical region of the brain. Feelings are effected by individual experiences, beliefs, memories, and thoughts linked to that particular emotion. Simply put, a feeling is the side product of your brain perceiving an emotion and assigning a meaning to it. We can’t measure feelings as we can emotions.


In Transactional Analysis (TA) our innate emotions are known as:

  1. Anger
  2. Sadness
  3. Fear
  4. Joy

Research psycologist Silvan Tomkins has a comparitable list for our ‘biological reactions’ to stimulus, with some interesting additions to the above some could come under the umbrella terms of TA, except the innate defence responses of Dissmell and Disgust.

  1. Anger
  2. Distress
  3. Fear
  4. Interest
  5. Enjoyment
  6. Surprise
  7. Dissmell
  8. Disgust
  9. Shame

Dissmell is the phrase Tomkins used for the reaction to bad odors and the impulse to avoid them, and disgust is the biological impulse to expel a noxious item. Shame is triggered when interest or enjoyment has been ‘activated and then interupted’.

Tomkins explains that shame is about inferiority, mismatch, and guilt about moral transgression, shyness about strangeness of the other and discouragement about temporary defeat. More about that later…

Why don’t we feel our emotions and feelings?

The late John Bradshaw, a counsellor and educator, explained we don’t express emotions and feel feelings because we get shamed in childhood. “Parents from dysfunctional families themselves are adult-children, their own wounded inner child is needy. Whenever their own children get needy, which naturally they do, the parent (aka adult-child) gets angry and shames them”. The cycle continues if adult-child never becomes adult, which means feeling the feelings and expressing the emotions. Without healing their own wounding, adult-children go on to wound the next generation as they were wounded. Even those adult-children who are determined to do the oppostite in their parenting style find out that the 180 degree turn from unhealthy, is still unhealthy.

Toxic Shame

Bradshaw calls this form of shame toxic, and defines toxic shame as the internalised feeling of being flawed and defective as a human being.  It binds emotions in shame so that when we feel anger, fear, sadness or joy, we also feel shame. Likewise with our needs and drives. Shame is different to guilt, as guilt is attached to our behaviour which we can change and apologise for, shame is attached to us personally. And we are who we are. If we are not accepted for who we are, we can not express our emotions or feeling our feelings.

What happens when we don’t express our emotions or our feelings?

Bradshaw explains when feelings are bound in toxic shame, we numb out or unplug from them. We use our ego defences when our reality becomes unbearable. We may tell ourselves things like:

  • It’s not really happening (Denial)
  • It never happened (Repression)
  • I don’t remember what happened (Dissociation)
  • It’s happening to you, not to me (Projection)
  • I eat or have sex when I feel it happening (Conversion)
  • It happened but its no big deal (Minimising)

Bradshaw explains that numbing out is the pre-condition for all addictions. Addiction is the only way then that a person can then feel e.g. a clinically depressed man who becomes a super achieving executive through his work addiction can feel only when he is working.

Each addiction allows the person to feel good feelings or to avoid painful ones. The addiction mood alters the hurt and pain of the spiritually wounded inner child.

Emotions are trapped in the body, they are blocked or stagnent energy which over time can go on to cause dis-ease and illness. The late Louise Hay offers many books about thoughts that go on to cause physical illness, which is useful to your healing process. As long as we remember that our feelings, thinking, behaviours and decision making is build upon emotions.

The wound inflicted by toxic shame is a rupture of the self with the self – John Bradshaw.

Sitting with the emotions of the wounded child, feeling the feelings is hard and painful inner work but is a road to real healing. The road to reparenting and healing your inner child. It is the Original Pain work and the foundation work before you can change your thoughts.

How are you feeling?

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