What Are Feelings and Why Do They Matter?

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The term “feelings” can refer to physical or emotional experiences. The sensation of pain, warmth, or cold describes physical phenomena. Sensations like comfort, fear, anxiousness, and happiness describe something we experience psychologically and emotionally. 

Understanding our feelings is an essential part of our human experience because feelings significantly impact how we perceive our entire existence. Our feelings help us to identify what is going on inside of us emotionally. Feelings are our body’s way to communicate how we’re experiencing our external and internal world. 

What Are Feelings?

Feelings allow us to experience an endless array of emotions. They are what gives us the ability to experience the joys and sorrows that life and all its ups and downs brings to us. They also help us to develop and navigate our way through relationships, make important life choices and identify our responses to events. 

Why Feelings Can Cause Trouble

Many of us have been taught from childhood to ignore and suppress our naturally occurring emotions. Oftentimes, we have been taught that the feelings we experience are bad or make us bad. Consequently, we learn to ignore them and even deny they exist. However, our feelings are very powerful, more powerful than most of us realize. One way or another, our feelings will fight to be expressed. They usually win. They get expressed. Sometimes their expression is healthy and sometimes their expression unhealthy, even damaging. 

Did You Know? – Anger that is not talked about and instead internalized, suppressed and denied lead to issues of serious depression and anxiety. 

Consequences of suppressed and denied feelings:

  • Anxiousness, agitation and sadness
  • Problems with anger, aggression and explosive behaviors
  • Experiencing phobias and unexplained fears
  • Struggles with eating disorders, and addiction
  • Difficulty experiencing healthy relationships
  • Poor communication and passive aggression
  • Developing a long-standing pessimistic perspective on life 
  • Feelings of low self-esteem, shame, guilt, and low self-worth

To experience emotional and psychological well-being, it is crucial to learn to recognize and embrace your emotions. The next step is to learn how to verbalize your feelings effectively in order to avoid the consequences of suppressed and denied feelings. 

Remember this! – We are NOT our feelings! We do not have to ‘act’ upon or become how we feel. In other words, just because I feel angry, does not mean I have to act angry. I can learn to appropriately and safely communicate how I feel (anger) without literally becoming my emotions (angry). 

Learning to Understand Your Feelings

Our cognitions influence how we feel. This means that the way we see and perceive everyone and everything around us, impacts how we feel. We tend to follow a very simple formula in the precise order of:

  1. Thinking (our thinking influences how we feel)
  2. Feeling (what and how we feel impacts our behaviors)
  3. Behaving (we behave as a result of what we think and feel)

Be sure to pay close attention to how you interpret the events and other people around you. Sometimes a simple adjustment in how someone or something is perceived can set off a whole new chain of responses. 

Emotions are not good or bad. 

Feelings are not right or wrong. They just are. And they are real and legitimate.  Feelings need to be validated. This means that feelings need to be acknowledged as being real and being yours. 

Accept your feelings, embrace them and allow yourself to experience them. 

Sometimes you will understand their origin and sometimes you will have no clue as to where they came from. It doesn’t matter. Validate all of them. Acknowledge them as yours and allow them to surface and be experienced in an acceptable way. 

Your body can literally “physically feel” emotions.

You have heard of “butterflies in the stomach” right? Our bodies physically react to how we feel. These bodily manifestations are different for different people. For example, during times of stress or fear common reactions may include headaches, body aches, gastrointestinal upsets, trembling, increased heart rate, etc.

It is important to learn to understand your feelings. Doing so is the first step in learning to embrace and accept them as part of who you are.  Remember it’s often unhelpful to label them as good or bad, or right or wrong. Accept them as being part of your experience. Then and only then can you begin to effectively share how you feel and create positive feelings and outcomes in your life. 

Sharing My Feelings

  • Put your feelings into wordsTalking to a trusted friend, family member or mental health professional who is empathic and non-judgmental allows you to share everything you are carrying alone inside. Talking to the right person can leave you feeling validated, cared about and less alone. 

Having a healthy and safe outlet to share your feelings with can lessen the load and reduce the power of uncomfortable feelings. 

  • Learn how to acknowledge and effectively manage anger. Anger is referred to as a secondary emotion. This means that anger is most always preceded with feelings of fear, hurt and disappointment. Identify and talk about what scares, hurts or disappoints you, now and in your past. 

Recognize your body’s signals that respond to feelings of anger. Talk about your feelings before they turn into regrettable actions. There are many anger management classes available throughout communities that can teach you how to appropriately talk through your anger and redirect anger-based behaviors into something beneficial and effective. Manage your anger before it manages you.

  • Express yourself. Journaling and even artwork, can be an effective way of processing what’s going on inside you – even if sharing them is with yourself and your journal. Writing down or drawing your what you feel takes them from deep inside you and puts them outside and onto paper. Storytelling, art work, and writing is a healthy outlet that helps process what has been festering for a long time inside us. 

Learning to understand and share allows you to acknowledge and accept your innermost experiences. When you share your feelings, you build longer-lasting healthy relationships, improve communication and experience an overall healthier emotional and physical well-being. 

Keeping your emotions bottled up inside or even denying their existence can create a life-time of negative outcomes. Let yourself feel and share your feelings, you will feel lighter, more authentic and more genuinely connected to others. 

Los Angeles Treatment Center

Our program at Launch Centers is designed to help you make sense of your emotional world, and process thought patterns and how it relates to your substance abuse.  We want to work with you to develop the skills necessary to feel in control of your emotions and in charge of the direction of your life! Contact us today to learn more about our addiction treatment program for young adults.

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