“I am cutting ties with my mother. I don’t want to see her, and I definitely don’t want to talk to her over the telephone.”
Rebecka was sick and tired of feeling not up to scratch.
She was 36 years old and lived alone. She was unmarried, but she had a ton of good friends and a very good job as a project manager.
Every Sunday night her mother would phone her, demand a run-down of her week and start preaching about Rebecka staying out too late with her friends and ruining her reputation. And then, every single time it came.
“When are you going to get married?”
Rebecka wanted to get married and start a family, but she hasn’t met the right someone yet. Her mother reminding her time was running out every week was chafing.
It was so painful she decided she’d rather not talk to her mother at all, than tolerate her constant nagging.
“I am already thinking that I am not good enough to get a husband, I don’t need my mother to tell me that every week. It feels as if the feeling of inadequacy is eating up all of my self-confidence and it is showing in the way I act at work,” she said in one of our coaching sessions.
Her solution for her problem? Just cut her mother from her life. At least, till she has found someone.
If only Rebecka knew about the one simple little truth about emotions, she could have felt so much better sooner.
Here it is:
In and of themselves feelings are as harmless as golden little ducklings.
Bear with me for a second, will you?
It is what feelings are that make them so harmless
You know that buzzing noise your phone makes when you have it on silent, but it is still vibrating to let you know you’ve received a text?
Your emotions are like that. They are vibrations taking place in your body to let you know something is happening.
They can feel overwhelming and very, very painful.
So, when I first heard that feelings are totally harmless, it felt like a stretch for me too.
Just like it felt to Rebecka.
And probably just like it feels to you, right now.
But, trust me, you can change your life completely once you truly understand how harmless emotions are.
If you’d google the word “harmless”, pictures of little yellow darling ducklings will appear.
Carry that image around in your head from now on when you think about your feelings.
Why can’t feelings harm you?
Take a scary emotion such as shame for instance. Shame is what I would experience when people laughed at me. It is one of the big fears I still have left over from my childhood days.
I talk about it here:
If I were to describe the feeling of “shame” to someone who has never experienced emotion, like someone living on Mars, this is how I would do it:
- My face feels hot
- There is a sinking sensation in my belly
- I have an urge to hide
The Martian would probably ask: “What is the big deal? That doesn’t sound very dangerous.”
For us, who have had mothers that didn’t love us the way we should have been loved, getting to a point to think of our feelings, even our most negative ones, as little round-headed fluffy ducks, is a vital first step in our recovery.
It can feel hard to do, but allow yourself, for even just a minute to believe that feelings are just vibrations in your body.
Feelings may be harmless, but they are very important
Don’t get me wrong, just because feelings are harmless, doesn’t mean they are not important. They are very, very important.
In the first place, a feeling is the reason why you do or don’t do things.
SPIDER, SPIDER ON THE WALL, SHOULD I BE AFRAID AT ALL?
Are you afraid of spiders? How would you act around them if you fear them?
I’d say either of the three f-reactions would be your answer:
But if you were a scientist who loves working with spiders (such people do exist!), you would have a completely different feeling around spiders.
When you as a scientist come across a spider you’ve never seen before, you’d probably have a different f-reaction – fascination!
And when you feel fascinated, you won’t run from the spider, or try to kill it or froze in fear, you’d approach it and try to find out more about it.
So, different feeling, different action.
Reason no 2 why feelings are so important
Not only are feelings the drivers of our actions, we also do what we do because of how we think it will make us feel.
Why Rebecka wanted to stop talking to her mother?
Because she wanted to feel confident and good enough.
She was chasing after a better feeling.
Sometimes you have to dig a little deeper, but in the end, it’s always, always a wanted feeling you’ll unearth as a reason for your doing things.
It is where feelings come from that make them so harmless
If our feelings are merely vibrations in our bodies, where do they come from? What cause our bodies to vibrate?
I’ll get to that in a minute but let me tell you this first.
You can choose what you are feeling!
Let that sink in.
Yes, it is true. Feelings are totally voluntary and within your control.
How is that even possible?
Because we create our feelings by our thoughts.
You can never have a feeling unless you first have a thought about something.
This is how it works: you and you alone create your emotions by the meaning you give to incidents.
You generate your feelings by the way you are interpreting events or situations
Once she could see that feelings were not dangerous, she could think differently about her situation. It was very empowering to her to learn to not let her mother’s criticism get to her and allow it to make her feel inadequate.
Is it easy to do that? Unfortunately, no.
But, if you really want to be an adult you need to cut the emotional, and not the physical, ties with your mother.
When feelings lose their hold over you and you stop fearing them so much, you’ll begin to understand you can choose what you feel, by changing what you are thinking.
Feelings are harmless, so it’s okay to feel bad 50% of the time
Often, once clients realize they can change how they’re feeling by changing how they are thinking, they are ready for some serious thought swapping so that they can live in Happy Land forever.
It doesn’t work.
You can’t be happy all the time.
You don’t even want to be happy all the time.
You don’t want to be:
- laughing when someone you’ve loved died.
- dancing around when an earthquake kills 4000 people
- singing when your best friend loses her job.
It can be very useful to accept that life is 50-50. Half of the time you’re going to feel sad or bad or mad. But the other half of the time you’re going to feel glad.
Don’t spoil your feeling-glad half with negative thoughts about the feeling-sad half. Then you let the feeling-sad half eat into your feeling-glad half.
Just come to peace with the fact that there is a lot of suffering in the world and you want to have appropriate emotional reactions for that.
This is why positive thinking is such a bad idea
Positive thinking is like putting a band-aid over a broken arm, hoping it will take the pain away.
Just like setting a broken arm in a cast can be painful, but necessary, you have to deal with the pain first.
THESE TWO TRUTHS GAVE ME THE BIGGEST BREAK-THROUGH WITH MY MOM
All my life I was always very much overwhelmed by what I was feeling. And my mother was like that too.
Discovering life coaching and especially these two beliefs turned things around for me.
Feelings are harmless in themselves
It’s normal to feel negative 50% of the time
Once I understood that feelings are harmless for me, I realized that they are harmless for my mom too. Because I understood that feelings won’t kill her, I stop trying to control her life so that she wouldn’t at all experience negative feelings.
Also, when I accepted that it is okay to feel negative 50% of the time, for me but also for my mother, it wasn’t so painful for me that she sometimes felt lonely or inferior or shameful.
Having a co-dependent pattern of interacting with my mother, these two beliefs helped me tremendously.
Could they shift things for you too?
Reason no 3 why feelings are important
Our emotions not only motivate us to do things, they also provide us with clues to what we are really thinking.
They are very useful, because if we truly want to change our lives and become the people we want to be, we have to be able to see our minds clearly, so that we can change our thinking.
However, when our feelings are still very intense, it can be hard to access our thoughts, because the emotions are so overpowering.
And that is why we have to learn how to properly process our emotions, so that we can use all they have to offer us.
If feelings are truly harmless, you don’t have to deal with them in this way
There are four ways you can deal with an emotion.
Three of them cause even more problems for you. The fourth one is the one we are aiming for here.
But because so many of us use the three bad ways, let’s look at these three first.
1. Avoid emotions
When you are choosing to avoid your emotional pain, you make-believe it isn’t there. Sorry to put it so bluntly, but you are lying to yourself.
We usually stay out of the way of feelings we don’t like by eating and drinking too much, or by spending hours and hours on Facebook or Instagram, or even by staying busy all of the time.
By injecting our brains with little doses of dopamine to feel better, we keep putting off having to deal with our negative emotions.
In the long run trying to numb the pain away just doesn’t work. At some point your negative emotions will catch up with you.
And remember, feelings are just vibrations in your body, caused by your thoughts. They can be uncomfortable, but they are harmless, so you don’t have to avoid them at all costs.
TIT FOR TAT, MOTHER DEAR
One of my clients couldn’t understand why she resented it so much when her mother asked her to forward her mail while she was on an extended stay in Europe.
We had to go back many years to when her mother calmly announced that she was moving far away two weeks after my client had her first child. My client thought her mother didn’t have a good reason to abandon her at this important point of her life.
Because she didn’t process the feelings of abandonment, years later she reacted to her mother with resentment, still thinking: “If my mother wasn’t there for me when I needed her most, why should I now take trouble to forward her mail for her?”
It gave her so much insight into her relationship with her mother.
2. React to your emotions
You want there to be a direct line between a thought and an emotion. You don’t want to go through three detours to reach what you are truly thinking. That is why you want to process your emotions as they arrive and don’t shove them away.
Whenever you have an almost illogical or irrational reaction, be assured somewhere there is an unprocessed emotion hiding.
Here are ways your reacting to your emotions instead of processing them could show up. It is a clear sign of reaction when you:
- embellish your story
- add some drama
- act out in any way
BUT I SHOULDN’T FEEL THAT WAY
Remember Rebecka, my client who just wanted to get away from her mother for good?
When we explored her feelings, she had a hard time just coming to grips with the fact how bitter and rebellious she really felt toward her mother.
She shouldn’t be feeling that way. She is a good person and good people don’t have those feelings towards their mothers, was what she was telling herself.
Instead of accepting those feelings in herself, it felt less painful to her to rather not talk to her mother at all.
3. Resist your emotions
When you fight against your emotional pain or when you refuse to feel your emotions, that is when you are resisting them.
What is the result of resisting pain instead of processing it?
You end up with even more negative results.
And usually a lot more anxiety.
We get confused and think resisting a feeling is the same as feeling it but telling yourself over and over again “I shouldn’t feel like this,” brings no relief.
Unacknowledged the feeling just gets stronger and stronger. Also, it can really drain your energy when you have to keep these unwanted emotions out of sight all the time.
And just to remind you one more time: in and of themselves feelings are as harmless as little golden ducklings.
How to process your emotions the right way
Let’s now look at the best way to deal with your emotions.
To process your emotions properly, is by far the best way to deal with your feelings. And to feel better faster.
Let me give you the bad news about this way first. It is hard to do. It can hurt like hell.
But the best news about this way is the best news ever. It will truly set you free of your past. Forever.
One of the good side-effects of allowing pain for a long enough time is that your thoughts about a situation will become clearer.
Excellent. Exactly what we want.
We want to be able to access what we are truly thinking, without taking any detours. Allowing an emotion is by far the best way to process it.
Clients often want to know how to “allow” an emotion
It is important to understand that allowing an emotion doesn’t feel you act it out.
When you feel angry, you don’t have to act angrily.
To allow an emotion means you look at yourself from the outside and observe how you are experiencing that emotion.
You do not BECOME angry. You just experience anger.
It can be very dangerous to act out your anger. Most people realize this, so they rather avoid or resist their anger.
Allowing an emotion can mean sitting by yourself and quietly feeling the emotion.
To help you with this process, I have compiled a free workbook. Fill in this form below and you will get the instructions how to get hold of this downloadable workbook.
Then you can get started on dealing with your emotions in a better way.
Want to feel better fast?
Download a free workbook and get to know your feelings better.
You want to deal with negative emotions as effectively as possible.
When you allow yourself to feel pain all the way through, you will be able to see that feelings really are manageable and can do you no long-term harm.
They truly are just harmless, golden little ducklings.
The well-known life coach Brooke Castillo says: “As soon as you are not in a hurry to get rid of the negative emotion, that is when it goes.”
And that is how you begin to feel better.