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Feeling Your Feels: Listen to Your Body

feeling your feels

It is vital, grounding, and empowering for us to feel our feelings in our bodies. A feeling is an emotional state, a reaction. In the thought work protocol we use, we recognize that our thoughts create our feelings, and we work with each feeling as a single word. Bored, angry, frustrated, happy, calm, peaceful, annoyed, joyful. For most of us, feelings like these; I’m disappointed, I’m sad, I’m angry. These are the easy ones to point to, to recognize.

Remember not to judge your “negative” thoughts or “positive” thoughts. You simply get to explore it, feel it, and ask what they have to teach you. Life is a solid 50% joy and 50% suffering. It’s only by experiencing the “negative” that we have a barometer for the “positive.” That is, how would you know that you are happy if you have never known sadness, if there is nothing to compare it to? It’s like, how would you know that there’s light in a room if you’ve never experienced darkness?

If you want to build deep self-love, to engage in meaningful self-care, it behooves you to understand and get in touch with your emotions so you can understand your actions in this world.

If you want to build more confidence, more self-love, this is a necessary process. The process we use is the three A’s. Awareness, acceptance, action. 

Before you can take thoughtful intentional action in this world, you need to know what you’re feeling, to be aware of your feelings in your body and the thoughts creating them.

To do the often challenging and important work of accepting your thoughts and feelings. What you resist persists, so I encourage you to do the work of getting deeply in touch with your own feelings, so you can harness them for your highest good.

We aren’t taught to identify our feelings, particularly when they’re attached to long-held stories about ourselves. 

We believe our thoughts about a situation are true and real and objective and fact, and we think our thoughts are our feelings. We conflate them. We confuse them. We make them one in the same, that the monkey-mind thoughts that habitually race through your mind are your feelings.

Common though this is, when we are working to be our own watcher, to observe our brains in action, to be able to see our thoughts, to detach from them, to understand that they are just habits and don’t define us, this is the vital first step in mind management.

The goal of thought work is to do this on the daily so we can see the thoughts that create our feelings. 

It’s so vital to be able to know and name what we’re feeling, without judgment or adjectives.

To learn how to say, I’m feeling angry, I’m feeling anxious, disappointed, joyful, frustrated, calm, sad.

How do you know when you’re having an emotion? The answer lies in your perfect human body. This is the awareness part of our work. Awareness, acceptance, action. Every feeling or emotion provokes or creates a physical experience of that feeling state, mediated by the vagus nerve.

Every feeling, every emotion leads to changes in heart rate, breathing pattern, and can be marked by different sensations in your body. 

When I feel nervous about speaking up, my throat feels tight, right in the throat chakra. If I breathe into it, get really present with it, I can see and feel that it’s blue. The energy is heavy and vibrating at a low, steady hum.

Before I give a lecture or do a webinar I get that feeling that most of us will recognize. Butterflies in my tummy. A buzzing sensation of energy in my belly that is light and fluttery and sometimes a little queasy-making. When I’m sad or disappointed, I feel it behind my eyes.

Take a moment, right now, my darling, to breathe into your own body, feel into where you feel these things. Speaking up energy, nervous energy, sad, disappointed energy, calm, peaceful, joyful energy. Connect in with where you feel these feels in your body. 

This is both science and sacred. Neurochemistry interacting with your body and the movement of your own energy, divinity, great spirit, whatever you call the energy of creation, of life, moving through you to let you know what’s up.

The studies are clear and there’s so much written on this. 

Our emotional state changes our biochemistry, changes our neurochemistry, our physiology. Our emotions create a physiologic state.

This movement of biochemicals and energy can be so subtle that we can move right through it, not even pause to notice them, or can get acclimated to it if they’re really common for us. Like the hum of low-grade anxiety always in the background.

You might find yourself biting your nails to the quick without even realising you’re doing it, without noticing that you’re feeling anxiety and you’re channeling it into this subtle self-harm. So very common, my love.

Often when we feel an emotion, we bypass the body because that’s what we’ve been taught. 

To give the brain primacy and to focus on cognition, on thoughts. Yes, I talk endlessly about the power and importance of our thoughts, but the bodily experience of emotions is not to be ignored if you want to grow, to heal, to make different decisions in the world.

We’ve all had the experience of ignoring a feeling only to have it come out sideways. Like when you’re angry about something that happened at work and suddenly you’re snapping at your beloved dog, partner or partners.

Let’s face it, those folks had nothing to do with your feeling pissed at your boss and, all of a sudden, it comes out in ways that you may not be proud of or may get to make amends for.

But might it not serve you more to learn to pause, to not bypass your perfect body, to feel the feels, and learn to process them through before doing the thing you may need to make amends for? 

A feeling is not a thought. It’s an experience. It’s mediated by your history, your trauma, old stories, what you were taught growing up, how you’ve learned to cope

A feeling lives in your body. Your feelings may feel automatic, and let’s get clear here, sometimes the first feeling that floods your body is automatic.

Mediated by your vagus nerve in response to an old story, trauma, stressor, experience, and that shift can happen in milliseconds. From totally okay to panicked or angry or worried or what-have-you and that’s okay. That’s natural, normal, just perfect. 

That first automatic vagus nerve mediated feeling is not a problem. It’s your body literally doing what it’s evolutionarily programmed to do to attempt to help you to survive.

It becomes a problem when you react and make it a problem in your mind. Instead, I’ll invite you to take a deep breath and to realize that it may take a while before you can stop that first flash of feeling in response to an event, which is often called a trigger in both common and psychological parlance. 

You can learn to know, to believe and trust that through neural retraining, reprogramming of our mind and body, our vagus nerve can learn to react less to triggers. To have a new response instead of that old freak out reaction.

Thought work is a vital part of that work. Showing yourself that you can show up for you when a trigger happens. And where you have power is in your next choice. The thought you think in response to that split-second feelings flood. That’s where you can take back your power to create the life you want, my love.

It’s okay if you can’t interrupt that flood of vagally-mediated feelings. 

Totally okay. If you were bit by a dog when you were a kid and you see a dog without a leash, feelings may flood your body. That’s okay. What you get to do is show up for those feelings, feel them, breathe into them, and know that you can pause and choose your response, that next thought.

Having these automatic vagal reactions, this is nothing to have shame or guilt around. Even if it looks like anger, beating yourself up, being mean to someone else, panicking, fleeing, flooding. No shame, no guilt, my darling. It’s what’s happening and it’s perfect because it’s what’s happening.

Perfect, not meaning that you have to love it, but just meaning that you get to bring your awareness to it, accept that it’s happening, and then take the action of breathing into you so you can make your next choice. This takes a lot of practice, self-love, and self-compassion.

The magic here comes when you can recognize this is a thought and this is the feeling in my body that comes from that thought. 

When you can get some cognitive distance, you can start to see when your thoughts are automatic, written in your mind by your past thinking, past experience, beliefs, by your family, culture, the patriarchy, society at large.

Your body holds the wisdom of how you will react to your thoughts. A physiologic experiencing of that thought made real in your body. When you can see it all happening, which happens when you pause, breathe, and write it down on paper, then you can process the challenging emotion, can really feel it all the way through versus pushing it aside.

And can thus release its grip on you, and can say, I feel anxious right now because I’m having the thought that no one will like me, the thought that they’ll know I’m a fraud, an imposter. 

You can begin to shift the story that you are overwhelmed by this emotion into an understanding that you’re the boss of your mind and body, and that is so liberating and empowering, my darling.

Try a grounding exercise to calm your monkey-mind down and bring awareness to your thoughts. 

Grounding exercises help you focus on your body, or what you’re experiencing physically, so you can take your attention away from your thoughts, away from I’m anxious, and you actively ground yourself in your body. I feel tingling in my hands, pressure in my chest, etcetera. You feel into it. You experience it, and through that, take your power back.

Because you are thus no longer subject to your brain. You’re centering yourself in your bodily energy and you can give yourself something else to focus on other than your old thought, “I’m anxious,” which your brain is likely to play on repeat and may then spiral out into more anxiety and even panic as your brain repeats the same old story with nothing new being offered to think about.

As you contemplate that old thought, your anxiety or whatever emotion you’re having will just grow and grow as you think it again and again, and soon enough, you’ll start looking for a buffer. 

Something to do to distract you, like eating something, watching TV, or even engaging in something you’re calling self-care, but is really a cover-up job.

When you breathe into your feelings and connect with your perfect body, and can use your brain to name them versus judge them, in that process, you can create some distance from them. The sensations will lose their intensity.

You can say, I am feeling flutters in my belly before this lecture. Okay. Those are just flutters. I’m safe, I’m okay. Nothing has gone wrong here. 

These are just physical symptoms, experiences, nothing to turn into a crisis or a problem. It’s just what’s happening.

This process takes the drama and intensity out of it. 

Taking the drama out returns you to the place of being your own watcher, the one in charge, and that’s a powerful place to be versus spinning in the stories about your experience. Once you’ve gotten some distance, you can then think about the cause of your symptom.

Your thought may be, “oh my god, I’m so anxious,” and you can recognize in that moment, when you breathe, that you are not anxiety. 

You are not anxious as a person, a state, it doesn’t define you. You are a person with a bodily experience that you are labeling as anxiety.

In creating that distance from it, feeling it in your body and choosing to see it a what is, choosing to shift through awareness; I’m having feelings in my body, acceptance; I’m safe. It’s okay. There’s no drama or problem here. They’re just sensations. You can then take action and ask yourself what thought is creating these feelings.

That is such a powerful place to be in. 

Your homework is this; when you feel an emotion you habitually label as negative, pause, breathe into it. Get present with your feelings versus fighting them, trying to push them away.

What you resist persists. Label the sensations in your body. I’m feeling this and that and the other thing in my body, sensations are happening. No judgment words, no adjectives like I’m feeling this crushing anxiety, but rather okay, I’m feeling tingling in my arms and legs, which is what I usually feel when I’m having the thought that I’m anxious.

As always, this may feel weird and awkward and hard and uncomfortable and challenging at first, and that’s okay. 

Remember that feeling anxiety, feeling like an imposter, doubting yourself, questioning your worth, those things feel comfortable because you’re used to them. 

But ask yourself, are they really any more comfortable than pausing to do this new thing of labeling sensations and getting present to them?

Like your brain got used to freaking out about sensations, emotions, feelings, soon, it’ll get used to experiencing these things in a brand-new beautiful way. This work will help you to start to tease out what part is a thought and what part is a feeling in your body. Awareness, acceptance, and soon enough, action.

I want you to invite you to not get mad at your feelings, not push them away, just feel into them. You have thoughts that create your feelings. 

When you get in touch with your feelings, really feel them without judging them, you can begin to process them through your body. This gives you the space, by not struggling against them or pushing away from them, to see them as just what’s happening.

How beautiful. This is thought work in action. I know not only that you can do this, but that it can change your life. Go gently. Be kind to your perfect self. 

Thank you for taking the time to read Feminist Wellness. I’m excited to be here and to help you take back your health!

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