The Feeling we Crave

It feels so good but…

Feeling in control isn’t the same as being in control.

One of my clients is going through some shit right now. She told me that she was trying to not think about it and just focusing on work because if she thought about it she would be too emotional and she wanted to feel in control.

But here’s the thing, by not thinking about it she was avoiding painful feelings, but she was avoiding looking at her options and making decisions. She was literally absolving herself from taking responsibility for the outcome. In other words, not taking control of the situation. Even though she felt in control.

It’s normal to not want to feel shitty feelings and to try and avoid them, in fact putting our feelings aside until we have the space to process them is a part of emotional regulation, but if avoidance becomes your go-to way of coping it comes at a cost.

Using Work to Avoid your Feelings

Your feelings are a source of data. When you try to push them away, the body gives you stronger cues so that you pay attention. Allowing your feelings means that you get to access the data, that is the thoughts that are causing the feelings. And yeah, it can be a lot sometimes, but fortunately, when you allow your feelings, they pass.

Using work to avoid your feelings might feel productive, but it’s dangerous because so easy to bullshit yourself (or others) and say that you have no choice. The fear of the feelings can lead to eating your feelings, drinking, binge-watching shows, distracting yourself with other drama, or other numbing behaviours… none of which help you take control.

Once you stop putting energy into avoiding your feelings you will have greater clarity and the freedom to take control of your decisions meaningfully.

Mini Exercise for Feelings Avoiders:

If you’re a feelings avoider and you want to explore this here’s a mini exercise for you:

  • Set a timer for five minutes.
  • Go to the feeling (don’t dwell on the thoughts causing it just get there)
  • Pay attention to how the feeling feels physically in your body
  • Pay attention to any thoughts that come up and notice if you want to spin off into thought tangents (just come back if you accidentally do)
  • Pay attention to the urge to go do something to either fix, avoid, or escape the feeling, but try to resist until the timer is done
  • Ask yourself why you are okay (yes you will resist this, that’s normal)
  • At the end of five minutes ask yourself how you can be on your own team and come up with three ideas

When you aren’t afraid of your feelings you can really take control.

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