NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Monday, October 5, 2015

Psychotherapy Blog: Allow Yourself to Feel Your Feelings and Express Them in a Healthy Way

Many people resist allowing themselves to feel their feelings fully, especially feelings that are uncomfortable for them, like anger or sadness.  What they don't realize is that by resisting these feelings, they're actually intensifying them.  They might avoid their uncomfortable feelings for a while, but these feelings will probably surface again stronger than ever.

Allow Yourself to Feel Your Feelings in a Healthy Way Rather than Resisting Your Feelings
                                                    The Problem With Resisting Uncomfortable Feelings

Aside from uncomfortable feelings coming back with greater intensity, the psychological energy that it takes to repress these feelings can be exhausting.

For some people, who manage to numb these feelings, they also end up numbing all their feelings so that they don't feel much of anything, not even happiness.

Resisting Uncomfortable Feelings Usually Intensifies Them

Rather than labeling feelings as "good" or "bad," it's important to realize that feelings are a normal part of being human.

This doesn't mean that you have to wallow in them or obsess about them.  It means that you accept yourself as a human being with a range of feelings.

Learning to Feel Your Feelings
Many people, who are afraid of their uncomfortable feelings, are afraid that if they allow themselves to feel their feelings that they will become overwhelmed.

But, for most people, making time and space for feelings usually has the opposite effect, rather than expanding, the feelings tend to settle down.

Feelings are more likely to become overwhelming when they're suppressed (see my article: Coping with Grief).

Allow Yourself to Feel Your Feeling in a Healthy Way, Including Sadness and Heartache

Rather than suppressing the feelings that make you feel uncomfortable, here are some tips that you might find helpful:

Rather than avoiding your uncomfortable feelings, create space in your mind and body for them.  

What do I mean by that?  I mean that you allow yourself, at the right time and place, to express your emotions in a healthy way rather than squelching them.

Allow Yourself to Feel Your Feelings in a Healthy Way, Including Anger

This means that, among the many ways you can allow yourself to feel your feelings in a healthy way, you can cry, talk to a trusted friend or loved one about how you feel, punch a pillow to let out anger or frustration, go for a walk or run, express your emotions in a personal journal or draw.  

The Mind-Body Connection: Feeling Your Feelings in an Embodied Way
Feelings are energy in your body, and the body often holds onto feelings, including unconscious feelings (see my article: The Body Offers a Window Into the Unconscious Mind).

The mind-body connection is important when you're learning to deal with  uncomfortable feelings because the feelings aren't just in your mind, they're also in your body.

Some people like to use movement or dance to express their feelings.  You don't have to be a dancer or "talented" to do this.  

If you can sense into your body, you can feel where your emotions are in your body.  So, for instance, if you feel your hands are clutched in anger, ask yourself what your hands feel like doing in order to express themselves.  Maybe they feel like getting wrung out or maybe they want you to rotate at the wrists.

If you sense that you're holding onto tension in your shoulders, what movement can you make to loosen up your shoulders?

This might feel awkward at first, but your body often knows intuitively what to do and, after a while if you keep trying this, you'll gain a better sense about where uncomfortable emotions are trapped in your body and learn to express them in intuitive ways.

Another example is heart openings poses in yoga where there is a more expansive feeling in your chest.  These poses often release emotion.  It's not unusual for people doing heart opening poses in yoga to feel a release of emotion.  Experienced yoga teachers know this.

Learning to Feel Your Feelings in a Healthy Way Also Means Taking Personal Responsibility
There are some people who think that allowing themselves to feel their feelings means that they can be physically or emotionally abusive towards others.  But that's not what I mean when I say to feel your feelings in a healthy way (see my article: Understanding and Expressing Your Emotions in a Healthy Way).

Feeling your feelings means that you do this in a healthy and responsible way with yourself and other.

No matter what you're feeling, you're still responsible for your feelings.

So, feeling your feelings doesn't mean that you take them out on other people or that you abuse yourself. 

Learning to feel your feelings in a healthy way means that you find healthy outlets to express yourself without abusing yourself or others.

Managing Your Stress Level on a Regular Basis
Aside from allowing yourself to feel uncomfortable feelings that you're aware of in your mind and body, it's also important to manage your stress on a regular basis so these feelings don't get to the point where they overwhelm you (see my article:  Staying Emotionally Grounded During Stressful Times).

Allow Yourself to Feel Your Feelings in a Healthy Way: Manage Your Stress Levels on a Regular Basis

Find stress management techniques that work best for you.

It's different for everyone.

Whether you practice meditation or yoga, go walking on a regular basis, or whatever works for you, be consistent so that you'll feel more balanced and grounded (see my article: Safe Place Meditation and The Mind-Body Connection: Mindfulness Meditation).

Getting Help in Therapy
There are times when, despite your best efforts to cope on your own, you might need professional help from a licensed mental health professional, especially if you're overwhelmed by a traumatic event (see my article: The Benefits of Therapy).

If you've tried and you're unable to cope with the feelings that are coming up, rather than trying to go it alone, seek professional help, especially if you're feeling depressed or anxious (see my article: How to Choose a Psychotherapist).

If you're feeling suicidal, it's important that you get help immediately, which could mean calling 911 or going to the nearest emergency room if you feel you're in imminent danger of hurting yourself.

It takes courage to ask for help, but most people discover that taking the first step of asking for help is usually the hardest and then it tends to get easier from there (see my article: Overcoming Your Fear of Asking For Help).

Allow Yourself to Feel Your Feelings in a Healthy Way: Getting Help in Therapy

Recognizing that everyone needs help at some point in his or her life can make it easier to pick up the phone and ask for help.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who works with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.