What Are You Feeling

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What Are You Feeling?

July 7, 2021

What are you Feeling? Being able to identify what you’re feeling and evaluate the possible impact can help you decide how to bring your best self into a situation. In the simple framework for life we use, thoughts and feelings are connected. Change one and you impact the other.

Rather than thinking of feelings as good or bad (spoiler alert: they’re neither- they just are), think of them as DATA. Let’s talk about how to get the information we need from our emotions and what to do with it.

In future episodes, I’ll be featuring questions from listeners- other life owners like you. If you have a question, topic or situation you’d like for us to explore, email me at tracey@tbrowning.com with ‘podcast question’ in the subject line.

What You’ll Learn From This Episode

  • Remember the simple framework for owning our life- thoughts, feelings and actions
  • Good feelings? Bad feelings? What if we don’t label them and just let them be?
  • Our feelings make us human
  • But what about those uncomfortable feelings?
  • Dr. Susan David and Emotional Agility
  • Why it’s important to recognize specifically ‘what are you feeling’ and an example from my own life

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Hey! I’m glad you’re here! This is episode 3 and we are going to talk about feelings – What are you feeling?

Last episode we talked about a simple framework for our life. Here it is. Understanding that our thoughts and our feelings collaborate- they work together- to birth our actions and that is what makes up our life. So, being the kind of person that you are who wants to be a good owner of our lives, it’s helpful to understand how this works. Our relationships, our jobs, our experiences, our LIVES- it’s all this grand smorgasbord of our thoughts, feelings and actions.

A good starting place is to first just be AWARE of our thoughts. Notice what we’re thinking.

The next step is to know that every thought we think is not necessarily true. Thoughts are sentences and phrases that are just happening in our heads. Just because we think it doesn’t make it true. Now remember that’s something that may be a little different for you to think about. We get to CHOOSE what we want to believe. There’s a difference in thinking and believing.

There is POWER in that. You can DECIDE what you want to believe! We can purposely think thoughts that serve you.

Now, on to FEELINGS and What Are You Feeling?
You have some feelings. Maybe you’ve got a LOT of feelings. And feelings about having feelings. And thoughts about your feelings. You may have been told “You’re just too much- too emotional, just too much” Maybe you weren’t told that but you thought it.

Or maybe you’re on the other end of the spectrum- you don’t think you have many feelings at all. Or thoughts about them.

Whatever way you are is fine. I am here to tell you that there is NOT ONE right way to be.
There are all kinds of ways to BE. There are as many ways to be as there are people in the world so don’t beat yourself up if you think you’re different. All of our differences can make the world beautiful and interesting

We may talk. We’re going to talk about what are you feeling in a way that maybe you aren’t used to thinking about them. We’ll see.

We’ll start with this.
Feelings aren’t good or bad. They just are.
It’s the thoughts we think about our feelings and the labels we put on them that have us thinking they’re good or they’re bad. Labeling them this way doesn’t usually help us. But we still do it anyway. It’s really more helpful to consider if it serves you or not, rather than thinking is it good or bad.

Now you know as well as I do that some feelings can feel uncomfortable. And if we feel uncomfortable we can quickly think “Oh, this is bad.” It isn’t bad, it’s just uncomfortable. Think for a minute about feeling courageous. If you’re in a challenging situation and you need to feel courage, it may feel like absolute crap. it can be hard. it may feel scary. You’re in a situation where you need courage so it’s not all sunshine and roses, right? But I think we can all agree that courage can serve us. So it’s a really good example of it can serve us but still be uncomfortable.

Another thing about feelings is that in our culture, we tend to have been taught that having feelings is weak or feminine. I disagree with this. We all have feelings. Having feelings- that’s what makes us human.

I could go on a tangent on this for days about this but I’m not going to. I’ll say this- our society teaches us lessons like -we start out telling our toddlers “big boys don’t cry” then they grow up believing what? That “real men don’t cry” which is bull. Even tears- and there’s different kinds of tears- have a physiological and psychological purpose. So I’m going to stop. Deep breath. Okay.

Back on my main track here. We may have also been taught that it’s more important to be logical than in tune with our emotions. It’s not just more important- it can be more professional to be logical than emotional.

That ‘softer skills’ and I’m doing the air quotes here- the softer skills aren’t as valuable at work, they’re not as valuable in life. Oh, fortunately, in recent years there’s a body of work on the concept of emotional intelligence- understanding your own emotions which helps you with yourself and with interpersonal relationships. Being able to understand emotions is not soft or weak or something just for women. It’s an important part of our human experience.

As we talk about how our thoughts and feelings collaborate, you may wonder which comes first- the chicken or the egg, the thought or the feeling? Personally I don’t get too tangled up in worrying about which is first. Some schools of thought teach thoughts are always first whether we are consciously aware of what we’re thinking or not. Some say feelings come first and that our feelings in our body send messages up to our brain and our brain interprets what we’re feeling. All this is happening in split- milliseconds so it’s really difficult to tell. I think it’s easy to get lost in the weeds on this. You can have a philosophical debate but, for me, here’s what’s most important.

The most important information is that THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS ARE CONNECTED. When we change one, the other is impacted. You might experience a thought first or you may have a feeling first. It may be one way for you in this instance and then another time, it’s different. But they are always connected. In psychological terms, we’re talking correlation, not causation but they’re correlated. They’re always connected.

Now sometimes it’s kinda hard to suss out the difference between a thought and a feeling.
Thoughts live in our heads.
Feelings are in our bodies.

It’s not only difficult to, you know, sort out the difference of what’s a thought and what’s a feeling?

It can be challenging to sort out between feelings.

There’s a researcher that I really admire. Dr. Susan David. She is a Harvard Medical School psychologist, she’s a management consultant and expert on emotions, happiness, and achievement. She’s got more than twenty years of research looking at this concept she calls emotional agility and she wrote a book on it- same title Emotional Agility. It’s about being able to use insights about your feelings to adapt, and align your values and actions and bring the best of yourself into the situation.
I love that idea- being able to bring the best of yourself into a situation. To me, that’s what being a good owner of your life is all about. Bringing the best of yourself, as much as you can, as often as you can.

One concept she talks about, she calls it emotional granularity. It’s sorting through so you can be more aware of specific feelings, instead of this general glump that we may be used to thinking about and talking about. Because the more accurately we can recognize what we’re feeling, the more capable we are of regulating it and understanding our self better but also understanding and relating to other people better.

Now this played out for me a few weeks ago. My husband and I spent the weekend at the beach. I LOVE the beach. It’s my happy place, I love to sink my toes in the sand and let the waves wash over my feet and soak up the sun and breath the salt air. I’ve had at least one trip to the beach every year of my life that I can remember. And that’s a long time! So it’s my happy place.

We were heading home about 10:30 Sunday morning. We make it 10 whole minutes into the trip and I was snarly and I am not usually snarly. My husband said something to me about food, “Do you want some food?” and I growled at him, “Yeah, I could eat something I guess maybe later” I kind of muttered off to the side so he took a slight detour (which highly annoyed me that we were detouring) because he wants to see what was open to get some food. Hardly anything was open, it’s 10:30 on a Sunday morning and there’s definitely not anything that’s going to make me happy. He knew it, I knew it. This is not a good situation. He pulled in a drive thru. We both turn our heads to look at the menu board and he asked me, “What do you want?” I glared at him. “NOTHING. I don’t want anything. Let’s just go.” So we pull out of the line and get back on the road and start back on our way home.

Now at this point I’m realizing that there is something going on that I need to deal with and it’s about more than me being a little bit HANGRY. And if I don’t figure it out, we’re just going to keep suffering through this supremely unpleasant car ride. So I said to him “Okay, I’m sorry. Let me think on things for a minute.” So I thought about what was happening in my body.

Yeah, I felt a little hungry. And I felt this dull weight in my stomach, a real solid heaviness that felt like tentacles spreading through my whole body. And I wanted to cry which was not my typical emotion these days. Then it hit me. “Tracey, you are really SAD. You’re leaving a place you love and you’re MAD that you have to leave the place you love. Just sit and feel sad and mad a bit. It’s ok.” I even sat there and calculated- was 47 ½ hours of delightful beach time worth the 30 minutes of sadness and anger that I’m feeling? Was it worth it? Would I do it again? Ah. Well, yeah, it is worth it. The feelings of sad and mad- that doesn’t feel good but it’s worth the experience.

If I hadn’t explored my thoughts and feelings, I could have attempted to make myself feel better with food which wouldn’t have worked very well because I’d have just been throwing food in on top of that heavy weight in my belly and there’s a recipe for indigestion. And I probably would not have realized, or it would have taken me longer to realize that my bigger issue was that I was feeling sad about leaving the beach, and I wasn’t hungry. And I wasn’t mad at my husband who was taking detours out of his way to just try to take care of me.

To be able to identify what I was feeling and to feel it, to acknowledge it, that gave me the space to appreciate my emotions and my experience. My beach time matters to me so, yeah, I’m sad when it ends. So I’m going to take some liberties with a Tennyson quote: In the end, it is better to have loved and left the beach than to have never been at the beach at all.

Now for the perfectionists among us, and I am a recovering perfectionist, it’s more important to
just start your thinking and feeling work, to start looking at your thoughts and being aware of your thoughts and feelings. Don’t worry about trying to ‘get it right’. You’re not going to do this perfectly. Just be aware. And the more you do it, the more easily you start to identify what you’re thinking and feeling. Like my example of coming home. I think about my thoughts and feelings all the time but in ‘the wild’, in my regular life, they sneak up on me. So I have to train myself and remind myself to say, “Hey, stop, think, what’s going on?”
It’s like any other skill, the more you do it, the easier it is.

Now here’s the thing about feelings too. Obviously, I’ve got the ocean on my brain today.

Have you ever been swimming in the ocean? You’re out playing in the water, up and down in the waves but you’re keeping the beach umbrella in your view and you’re playing and you look up after a while and realize, “Wait a minute, I’m not in front of my bright, striped beach umbrella any more. I’m like 50 feet down the beach! What happened?” Well, the current pulls you, sometimes it’s stronger than others. Sometimes it pulls you down the beach more quickly than others. That’s what emotions do to us especially if we’re not paying attention and we’re not aware. They pull us off course, they pull us a little farther down the beach away from our umbrella , away from our marker.
So part of this is about being aware of what we’re feeling and which direction it’s pulling us in.
Here’s another Susan David quote that I like: Emotions are DATA, not directives. Emotions, and this is especially helpful if you’re one of those people who think. “Hmm, I don’t really have a lot of emotions.” or “It’s not really worth my time.” Emotions can give you a lot of information- about yourself, the people around you, about your situations. And you don’t have to be at the mercy of your emotions, you’re not directed by them. We can look at our feelings and respond.

In the spirit of Viktor Frankl (because there’s debate about this, if it’s a Viktor Frankl quote or whose quote is this? But he said it and probably a bunch of other people said it too.) Between stimulus and response, there is a space. And in that space is our power.

Think of your feelings and give yourself space- give yourself the power to examine your emotions, to feel them, to use them in a way to bring your best self into the situation. To be a good owner of your life. That’s what we’re in this for, to be the best that we can be, to bring our best self forward into the situation as often as we can. So what are you feeling?

In future episodes, I’ll feature questions from listeners, other life owners like you. If you have a question or a topic or situation you want us to explore, send me an email- just cover the basics and send it to tracey@tbrowning.com with ‘podcast question’ in the subject line and hit send.

Can’t wait to hear from you!

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By |2021-08-01T14:25:56-04:00July 7th, 2021|Podcasts|0 Comments