Dealing with Feelings
We tend to either avoid our negative feelings, or obsess over them. Unfortunately, these reactions just feed the idea that they are scary. There are many schools of thought out there, but in my experience what works is to firstly have clear ideas about what we want, how we want to think, and how we want to be in the world. Then, to use aspects of mindfulness and Compassion Focused Therapy to shift our relationship to our emotions.
An exercise in self-compassion: when you experience a painful feeling, show yourself compassion; say to yourself, ‘Ouch, that hurts’, touch your chest or cheek as a sign of kindness towards yourself. Remind yourself that you are not the only person in the world having this feeling; that you are not alone. Don’t fight with or resist the negative emotion, it will only make it worse. Say to yourself, ‘I accept myself exactly as I am in this moment’. Imagine you are talking to a good friend, what do you need to hear from them? Not only will this practice foster self-compassion, it will also make you relate more compassionately to others.
An exercise in mindful awareness of emotions - be aware of the negative emotions, allow and accept them rather than try to change them. Focus on tuning in to the sensations the emotion brings about in your body. Be with the feelings, explore the physical sensations. Have curiosity - how do I experience this feeling? What would the feeling look like in visual form? I wonder why the feeling is here now?.
An exercise in transformation – bringing a previous version of ourselves to the wiser self we are both becoming and always were. Imagine your wiser self, who has overcome the current problems and is wise, strong, compassionate and good. Imagine asking your wiser self, ‘How did you become like this?’, ‘What did you have to overcome or let go of to become wiser and stronger?’, ‘What 1 word of advice or gift or object do you have for me?’
A Challenge - Spend 15 minutes allowing everything to be exactly as it is, with no judgement - all feelings, thoughts, sensations, memories that emerge, any sounds, smells, sights that catch your attention. Make no effort to try to correct or solve anything.
The ultimate aim is to be able to observe all our thoughts and feelings from the perspective of the part of us that isn't perturbed by them. We all have this higher level of consciousness, but we need to do things differently to access it.