Whatever emotion is in there, eventually it will want to come out. Life gets easier - and more rewarding - when we learn to stop fighting and just feel what we feel.

This past week one of my mentees asked me to talk with her about emotions.

Specifically, she wanted some insight into the process of learning how to identify, name, and feel emotions.

This is a challenge I struggled with for years during my lengthy recovery battle from anorexia and bulimia. And I shared with her that sometimes I still struggle when a new and weighty challenge suddenly appears before me unannounced.

So when this happens to me, I go back to basics. Lately I have had the good sense to hire a life coach, and she has given me a great visualization that I shared with my mentee this week, and now I want to share it with you as well.

To Identify, Name, & Feel your Feelings:

  • First, connect with yourself. Find something that sparks a feeling of “caring about you”. If you have to imagine you are someone else (like a significant other, best friend, your therapist, your mentor, etc) who cares about you, or someone whom you care about, and then project the feeling back towards yourself, that approach can also work.
  • Next, use that curious brain of yours to become curious about what you are feeling. Ask yourself very kindly and objectively, “What are you feeling right now?” Then wait for your brain to work it out and deliver the answer to you.
  • Next, visualize that feeling moving “up, through, and out” of your body. If it helps, visualize a “central emotional highway” that that emotion is on, and see it zip past you.
  • Next, ask yourself, “What emotion is underneath that one?” and wait for your brain to work it out and deliver the answer to you.
  • Continue this process until you feel that your feeling-identification is complete (ie there are no more answers to the question “What emotion is underneath that one?”)

NOTE: At no time here should you try to analyze WHY you are feeling the feeling, or what feeling that feeling could possibly mean. You are just identifying, naming, and feeling your feelings. Remember, it doesn’t matter why you are feeling them – you just are. It also doesn’t matter whether your brain thinks it is okay or not to feel those (or any) feelings, because the evidence is there that no matter what your brain thinks about it, you are in fact feeling those exact feelings at that exact moment.

Today’s Takeaway: Try out this process the next time you notice yourself going round 100 with your brain without making any significant progress. Chances are, when this happens, there is a powerful emotion (or three!) beneath all that intellectualizing that needs and wants to be named and felt.