“Feelings, nothing more than feelings” – Morris Albert
It’s been a week where I’ve had to deal with “nothing more than feelings” in a very public way, speaking as I have at my father’s funeral. An event of this magnitude can bring up many feelings and I think it would be fair to say I’ve experienced the whole spectrum - feelings of sadness and grief but also gratitude and joy as we celebrated as well as mourned Dad’s life.
“And feelings like I’ll never have you again in my life.” Morris Albert
And yet amidst the on-going sadness Kathryn and I have also experienced other feelings like accomplishment when we recorded 8 videos in 2 days for our business and happiness and gratitude when Kathryn’s podcast, Podcast Divas hit the top of New & Noteworthy in iTunes in 4 categories. So it seems fitting therefore to think about the process of dealing with feelings.
Last week we asked what are feelings, what purpose do they serve, and how do you recognise and own your feelings? Now it’s all very well recognising you’re having them but when you’re in the presence of intense feelings, what do you do next?
Whilst it’s true you can’t always choose how you feel, you can choose how you respond to how you feel, and that’s what we’re talking about today, dealing with feelings.
So once you’ve recognised you’re feeling something there are a number of choices you can make with how you go about dealing with them. Here’s five ways.
5 ways of dealing with feelings
- Express your feelings – in other words let them out. So if you’re angry, you might smash something, or shout. If someone has upset you, you might tell them how you are feeling: “I’m really hurt by what you’ve said, and right now I’m feeling resentful.”
Now this can be helpful in that expressing your feelings can give a sense of release, and clarify how you feel. It may also prevent you getting more embroiled in a situation because you have expressed it in the open. Plus, it can make others more sympathetic to you. It may encourage them not to take how you are behaving personally, if they realise that they are not the cause.
But expressing your feelings, especially if forcefully, can alienate people, could potentially lead to violence, and can be bad for your health. We all know of people who frequently ‘lose the plot’ in their anger and can only imagine the longer term consequences of these outbursts to health.
- Channel your feelings – into some other activity of your choosing. Like going for a run if you’re feeling frustrated after sitting all day in front of a computer screen in your office! Or perhaps channelling your anger into more logical ways of thinking about the subject. Writing that letter to an authority, if you’re feeling frustrated about an aspect of service. Many of us channel feelings constructively into creativity or sporting pursuits. But be aware too of the potentially destructive side of always channelling your feelings into something else – feelings do sometimes need to be dealt with.
- Switch from one feeling you’re currently having into another feeling of your choosing. You know the sort of thing: “I know I’m angry about this, but I can either get really worked up about it or I can just choose to laugh it off.” Switching your anger into laughter can be highly appropriate as a release mechanism in moments when we’re feeling tense. But we’ve all been aware of when we’ve inappropriately got the giggles at an event where we’d rather not have had them. And taken to extremes - switching feelings of jealousy to anger or revenge, or expressing a feeling inappropriately like laughing at someone’s misfortunes is the flip side to switching feelings constructively.
“Teardrops, rolling down on my face, trying to forget my feelings of love.” Morris Albert
- Controlling your feeling for now – Choosing not to express your feelings in that moment, but instead waiting until it’s a safer environment to let it out. At the funeral this week I chose to control feelings of wanting to cry before giving the family tribute, reasoning that if I’d started showing my feelings through tears, I might not be able to give the tribute I’d prepared. Sometimes it’s good to control you feelings when letting your feelings out may just make things worse, plus it also demonstrates self-control. But conversely, it’s necessary to let feelings out at some point – the death of a parent is after all a hugely significant moment - and sometimes controlling feelings can be destructive: It can cut you off from yourself and your own feelings and from other people, because they just don’t know how you feel. And you miss a chance to be supported or share in these feelings. At the extreme then, too much control becomes avoidance.
- Reasoning the feeling through – Reflecting on whether it is actually worth getting so worked up about what you are feeling. This is about using your rational mind to think through your feelings. Examining your feelings to see if they continue to be appropriate or have changed in some way. So it might be healthy to reason through feelings which have led to a long-term grudge for example, particularly if it’s affecting your health or outlook. We’re all capable of taking advantage of our ability to rationalise or reason through our thoughts, and using this capability with our feelings will enable you to manage your life more effectively. Reasoning your feelings through is also helpful when it stops you rushing in and making a mistake you might live to regret, or stops you expending unnecessary energy on something and through rationalising you come to recognise more fruitful ways of dealing with those feelings, but as always it can be destructive when reasoning is your only tool in your armoury. We do need to feel – it’s what makes us feel alive.
So how do you judge which will be the most useful in any particular setting?
A good rule of thumb is to consider what makes the circumstances better for you in this situation or ideally better for you and the other person(s). Or you can consider what makes the situation worse and avoid that. So ask yourself if you’re really feeling fed up with someone - would expressing my feelings make the situation better or worse?
And how do you balance those 5 choices?
A nice way to consider how to balance your feelings is to do the following for each of your five ways of ‘dealing with feelings’.
So taking the example of ‘Expressing your feelings’. Say to yourself?
Do I need to express my feelings more, or am I expressing my feelings about right or do I need to express my feelings less? You’ll know the answer if you listen to yourself.
Repeat this process for channelling your feelings, switching your feelings, controlling your feelings and reasoning your feelings and you’ll get an idea of how you predominantly deal with your feelings. You’ll also be aware of the other options you have and which ones you’re under using. In the end the skill of dealing with feelings is probably about balancing those 5 ways, rather than defaulting to one in particular.
Tell us how you deal with feelings
Tell us how you deal with your feelings by leaving us a voicemail using our new voicemail service – it’s a pink ‘Send us a voicemail’ tab found on any page. And who knows we may feature your voice on our podcast. We’d really like to share your collective knowledge of these matters. Or you can leave us a comment below. If you feel like it of course! And talking of podcasts…
In episode 67 of the Changeability Podcast
Hear us discuss all the above, plus:
- Why do people avoid what they feel
- Things we should look out for in our own lives which show that we are avoiding how we feel
- The warning signs of not dealing with feelings
- And more.