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One of my clients really nailed her problem with emotions. “I have no idea what I’m feeling most of the time. It’s a habit not to know,” she said, as if not being aware of feelings were the most natural thing in the world. Do you have a habit of avoiding noting or exploring what’s going on inside you? If so, it’s time get and stay connected.
Emotional health means knowing what you’re feeling most of the time—when you’re frustrated, anxious, hurt, disappointed, bored, confused or lonely, plus any other emotions which pay you a visit. You may not recognize exactly what you’re feeling every second of every day, but you want to keep a running connection to your affective world. Sure, sometimes you’ll miss what you’re feeling in the moment and need to wait a bit to figure it out. The point is to value emotions enough to want to know.
You may be like many of my clients who fear emotions because you feel pressured to do something with or about them. But, think, do you feel a need to do something with every thought that flits through your mind? Do you think, I believe it’s healthy to eat apples and rush off to munch on one or My old couch is looking ratty and drop what you’re doing to run out and buy one? I hope not. You don’t have to act on emotions either. You can simply notice them. One of the most valuable lessons therapists learn in training is to pay exquisite attention to their feelings. We’re taught to check in with ourselves frequently and ask ourselves what we’re feeling. Eventually we develop the habit not only in clinical settings, but in the rest of life.
It’s vital to recognize why you’ve not been in the habit of not knowing. Because your parents never talked about feelings so you never became conversant with them? Or did they make fun or change the subject when emotions were shared? Or claim that feelings are worthless and that thought and action are what counts? Or insist that you didn’t know what you were feeling so you thought, What’s the point of knowing?
If you haven’t read THE FOOD AND FEELINGS WORKBOOK, it will help you understand the purpose of emotions. If you’ve read it and still can’t generally identify what’s going on inside you, it may be time for another read. You are not a complete person if you’re not in the habit of knowing what you’re feeling. That would be like having all your senses go missing. The world is so much richer and more interesting with emotions. Moreover, when you’re in the habit of knowing what you’re feeling, you’ll do exponentially better with eating “normally” and living the life you want to live.
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