When considering our relationship with feelings, we often feel that feelings get in our way, disrupting the flow of our days. They may even feel like a bad relationship you had in the past. Perhaps you too have wondered ‘how much better could life be if certain feelings would disappear.’ Why do we have these feelings if they are so uncomfortable or seem cumbersome? And where do feelings come from?
“Feelings are language.
Language is communication.
Communication is information.”
Feelings are a language that emerges to communicate information to us about ourselves, our likes, our dislikes, our needs and who we are. And when they emerge, we feel the energy generated by them in our bodies. You can think of this as the energy you experience in your relationship with feelings.
Take thirst, for example; if you never felt thirsty, you wouldn’t know when to drink water. And, if you don’t drink water for long enough, you’ll become dehydrated and eventually die. So, uncomfortable as thirst can feel, it’s actually essential to our survival. And there’s quite a difference in the energy we experience quenched than dehydrated.
Many of us think of ourselves as logical beings and that we are always able to apply sound sense to our experiences. Pause and reconsider. Here is an example:
Choosing your next car
You’re looking for a new car, and you’ve got your criteria of what you want this vehicle to have. You view a number of cars that fit the bill, but they just don’t feel right, and then a salesman shows you this ‘wildcard’ of a car. Even though this car doesn’t have many of the features you thought were important to you, you decide that this is the perfect car for you.
Where do feelings come from?
Feelings carry energy that comes from the inside of your experience. They are the resulting energy of your physical sensations and your senses along with how that relates to your past similar experiences. How you are feeling at any particular moment is called your ‘state.’ Your state is the energy your experience in relationship with your feelings.
A particular experience at a specific point in time is often referred to as an ‘event’ in neuroscience. A combination of physical sensations like your heart rate and muscle tension paired with your five senses become stored as events. Your brain references past experiences and assigns meaning to similar, new ‘events’ when these same signals showed up before. This fuels the energetic quality of the relationship you have with the event.
Your brain is a meaning-making engine, using information provided from your feelings and the energy of the relationship you have with those feelings, to help you make the choice how to respond.
Definition of feelings: The word ‘feelings’ includes both physical and emotional sensations. All feelings, such as pain, exhaustion, stress and anxiety are messages communicating information.
Are ‘feeling’ and ’emotion’ interchangeable words?
We often use these two words interchangeably, but really, there’s a slight but significant difference. The word ‘feeling’ includes both physical and emotional sensations. Here’s the definition given by Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary:
a physical, or emotional, sensation, reaction or awareness
Examples of physical sensations or experiences are for example pain, tingling, arousal, exhaustion and thirst. Examples of emotional experiences are, for example, anger, joy, anxiety, love and shame.
A helpful analogy for detecting the difference: all sheep are mammals, but not all mammals are sheep. Likewise: All emotions are feelings, but not all feelings are emotions.
Why your relationship with feelings need Fluency?
You can feel a state change happen in your body when your brain assigns a meaning of ‘threat’ to your sensory input and the physical sensations and emotions that you are experiencing. Your energy changes because your resources are diverted from maintenance systems like digestion to your survival systems like heart, muscles and breathing.
The ‘stress response’ kicks in, and you either flee the threat or fight the threat in order to survive. If fighting or fleeing can’t be options, you go into a state called freeze hoping that the ‘threat’ passes you by, leaving you unharmed.
This primal survival response eclipses most maintenance needs of the body until the perceived threat disappears. So why does this relate to feelings? The brain is one of the body’s most energy-intensive organs, so much so that it uses up to 20% of all your available energy. So it makes sense that when you need your resources to help you deal with danger, resources move away from the thinking functions, temporarily seeming as unnecessary.
At first, the ingenuity of this mechanism shines for threats like bears where you don’t need those thinking functions to assess whether that predator had lunch. But, for current-day threats, accessing those thinking functions is essential in order to respond beneficially rather than react destructively. You can read more about the stress response here.
Fluency for Feelings, is a technique to be used in the moment. It is for short-term, facilitative support. It doesn’t replace therapy or self-development, both of which tend to longer term self-care journeys. However, Fluency for Feelings in the moment of distress is the foundation needed for acquiring a sense of empowerment and choice so that your neurobiology is able to change, leaving you more relaxed and calm.
What is Fluency for your relationship with feelings?
Habits are created through repetition. Sometimes we habitually respond to our feelings in destructive ways that perpetuates the stress response. An effective application is necessary to interrupt our feeling-state and shift it from being an unhelpful relationship and reaction to beneficial relationship and response, shifting your energy from stress to being more calm. In Fluency for Feelings, we interrupt our habitual relationship with feelings and develop a more constructive one though a three-step technique: Awareness – Body – Choice.
By bringing awareness to the meaning igniting your stress response, you have opportunity to slow down, come into your body through through breathing and then alter your biochemistry and energy so more sound thinking functions can be accessed. Thinking more clearly helps you be able to get curious about what your feelings are communicating through their sensory language. As a result, you build fluency in the feelings-language and are better equipped to make constructive and beneficial choices about what’s going on. The more skilled you become in applying it, the more effortless and fluent your relationship with feelings will feel.
Talking about my relationship with feelings is difficult; what do I do?
You’re not alone if you find it hard to talk about your feelings. Many of us do, even with just naming our feelings, let alone understanding how to respond to them. Research indicates that 10% of us at significant levels and many others to a lesser degree, in fact struggle to name emotions.
Finding someone to speak to can be helpful because you learn the language to talk about your feelings as well as learning how to interpret the messages that your feelings are giving you. You develop fluency speaking the feelings-language; this is a foundational skill for self-care and well-being! Fluency with feelings-language helps you constructively work through your relationship with feelings in a way that’s beneficial and supportive. Because this is the same way we learn to read and write a foreign language, it is often referred to as health and emotional literacy. We call it Fluency. The more you practice a new language, the easier it becomes.
How do I find someone to talk to?
Select someone with whom you feel safety with. This could be a friend, coworker or a professional. A sense of safety is a prerequisite for accessing thinking functions. iIt’s virtually impossible to talk about anything when you’re feeling unsafe with someone,.
Our appeal to you is to take seriously the impact of your Fluency for Feelings on your mental and physical health as you would following your doctor’s instructions for health. And do connect with us you need a safe relational space to become fluent in your feelings.
Be gentle. Go fluently.