As a young adult, I often didn’t know what I was feeling. I didn’t learn what my feelings were, or what to do with them, well into my adulthood. And interestingly, transition has helped me both be more in touch with my feelings, but also to take them more in stride than I used to.
Whether we are aware of our feelings, and how we deal with them is directly related to how resilient we can be. If we don’t know how we are feeling, or are stuffing our feelings, or if we are reacting out of proportion to the situation at hand, we aren’t going to be able to be very resilient in the face of events happening in our lives. Being compassionate with ourselves in the face of difficult feelings is important in being able to move through them without suffering.
Emotions are both psychological and physiological phenomena. By psychological, I mean they are often generated by our reactions and thoughts. By physiological, I mean that they have definitive manifestations in our bodies. And if we can get in touch with those physiological manifestations, and be more aware of what’s happening in our bodies, we are more able to tolerate difficult emotions. And we are also able to recognize and appreciate joy when it happens.
So how does one learn how to be more aware of feelings? It takes practice, but noticing what’s happening in our bodies when we feel strong emotions is a start. Notice where you are feeling things in your body? Head? Jaw? Throat? Upper chest? Abdomen? What is the quality of the feeling? Tension? Pain? Tingling? Cold or warm? And when you connect with those physical sensations, see if you can name the feeling? Anger? Sadness?
It’s important too, to separate the feeling from the thought. “They don’t care about me” isn’t a feeling, it’s a thought. The feeling might be anger, or sadness. And the feeling is yours, and only yours. It might have been triggered by another person’s actions – but they aren’t causing the feeling.
Knowing what we are feeling, taking responsibility for our feelings, and feeling self-compassion for ourselves in the face of difficult emotions are all keys to resilience.