Putting feelings into words produces measurable therapeutic effects in your brain.
Here are six steps to doing it well.
Step 1: Label What You Feel
If you don’t know what you are feeling, then you are lost for the get-go. It’s true that many of us feel things without consciously knowing what we’re feeling. Labeling the feeling is critical to knowing what to do next.
In fact, research suggests that if you label your feelings, you will handle them better.
Labels ‘contain’ feelings, contextualize them, and point the way toward resolution.
Are you feeling anger, sadness, grief, fear, humiliation, annoyance, frustration, disappointment? Labeling your feelings inside your own mind sets the stage for expressing yourself toward resolution.
Step 2: Place the Feeling In Proper Context
Placing your feelings in context is particularly important if you are experiencing negative states. Let’s say that you are angry. Angry about what, specifically? Getting specific is the key here because you don’t want to throw in everything but the kitchen sink.
So, you’re angry at your friend. What happened? He failed to show up to your lunch date on time. Ok – keep it to that. Don’t sit there and stew on everything your friend has done to disappoint you in the past. This will not help you express what you are feeling now.
Generalizing will only serve to overwhelm you and create defensiveness in your friend.
Step 3: Speak Out While Staying Consciously Connected to the Feeling
Locate the feeling in your body and begin to talk.
I am angry because…
I am feeling sad because…..
I am feeling anxious about…
And so on. While you speak, stay aware of the feeling. Don’t just let the feeling take over. Consciously monitor it. As you speak and the feeling comes out, it will shift. New thoughts will come to mind. Stay on top of it. If you do it this way, you will work through the feeling productively – and be more likely to come to resolution.
Step 4: Speak with Maturity
Of course, if you fly off the handle when expressing negative feelings, you are likely to 1) create more problems with other people and 2) fail to resolve how you are feeling within yourself.
Why? Because when you act immaturely, others will react to that and often refuse to give you what you need to resolve your own feelings. Maturity is a personal paradigm – use it!
Step 5: Accept Feedback
So, there you are. You know what you are feeling. You have spoken it while staying conscious, mature and specific. Once you’ve gotten it all out, you are in a position to receive feedback.
Be open to it. You might learn something that changes it all for you. For example, your friend had a valid reason for being late. Who knows what’s going on, really, in someone else’s life?
Step 6: Reevaluate your Feelings
After receiving feedback, check in with yourself. How do you feel now? Are your feelings resolved? Or, what’s left? If you have feelings left over, begin at step one!
Mike Bundrant is author of the book Your Achilles Eel: Discover and Overcome the Hidden Cause of Negative Emotions, Bad Decisions and Self-Sabotage.
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