How to feel those dang feelings

Feelings Wheel

I often use this feelings wheel to help clients identify and label their feelings to self-soothe and self-regulate. Often, humans create an additional layer of pain when they judge their feelings and wonder, “Why am I feeling this way?” “Why can’t I get over this?” “I don’t like feeling x way!”

Let’s use the example of pregnancy loss (especially relevant right now as October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness).

I have heard clients questioning themselves, wondering “Am I doing this [grieving] right?” I remind them, there is no “right.” Utilizing a Buddhist mindfulness meditation lens, I oftentimes describe the pregnancy loss as the “first arrow” of pain. The “second arrow” of pain, which further worsens the initial pain of the first arrow, is questioning the validity of our pain, wondering if we are “crazy,” and thinking there is something wrong with us because we can’t seem to move on fast enough to please those around us.

Steps to Processing Your Feelings:

  1. Identify/label your feelings (use the feelings wheel to identify the word that most closely resonates with how you are feeling)
  2. Acknowledge your feelings (e.g.,”I am feeling powerless)
  3. Breathe through your feelings (literally breathe, activate your parasympathetic nervous system)
  4. Do not judge your feelings (e.g., instead of “What’s wrong with me? I am an adult. Why do I feel powerless?!” try, “This is a hard moment for me. It’s ok to feel powerless. I am a human being.”
  5. Accept your feelings as being part of the human experience (e.g., you can tell yourself, “There are others who feel powerless too. I am not alone in this experience.”
  6. Repeat, repeat, repeat

One of the most important questions you can ask yourself,

What are you unwilling to feel?