Well, how do we deal with painful feelings?
Of course, painful feelings can add a lot to our inner struggles and so it’s important to find a way of dealing with them appropriately so that they don’t linger on, so they don’t stick with us for years to come.
Right now, I’m dealing with a situation that’s caused me a lot of sadness and sorrow. Somebody I regarded as being a very close friend has acted in a way that has been very painful for me and so that’s reminded me of one of the ways I’ve written about in my book ‘Overcoming Financial Stress’
In that book I describe a number of ways of dealing with emotional issues based on the premise that a lot of people try to suppress their feelings. They don’t acknowledge them and try to push them away.
The analogy I use for that is to imagine being in shoulder-high water at the beach with a whole lot of beach balls and you’re trying to hold them all down. That’s representative of the emotions and you’re trying to hold them down all the time because you don’t want them to reveal themselves.
That can be exhausting; it can be very draining and that certainly adds to inner struggle.
It’s much better to let the beach balls go, to simply let them float away, and this is a method of doing that, dealing with your painful feelings.
I find that people that who don’t acknowledge their feelings tend to cut off their darker feelings such as their sorrows and sadnesses, but in doing that, they also cut off the peaks, the higher, better feelings, so their range of emotions becomes reduced and so they lose out.
While they might feel they’ve dealt with the negative feelings well, they are actually paying a price because they’re not being able to enjoy life to the fullest because their positive feelings can’t reach their highest peaks.
So, the method I want to describe to you involves considering the four main basic types of feelings and acknowledging them – to really feel them.
The feelings that are best addressed are the primary feelings of anger, fear, sorrow and sadness. Going through this is quite applicable if you’ve lost your job or you’ve been hurt by somebody or maybe you’re bereaved – somebody has died, someone close to you has died and you’re in a lot of pain. Maybe you’ve had a motor accident. Of course, there are an infinite number of things that can cause us to feel pain and this method is very, very powerful in dealing with them, although it appears to be very simple.
The idea is that you’re going to really express and feel those feelings and once you’ve allowed yourself to feel them fully, they won’t come back again: you’ll have sort of exhausted their power and you’ll be able to think about the event or the situation with far less pain.
So, the way to do it is to either grab a piece of paper and a pen – you can either do it writing – or you can do it by talking, particularly if you’ve got a close friend who you can share this with. I’ve certainly done this with many of my coaching clients as we’ve gone through this exercise. You can do it talking to an audio recorder of some sort – I use voice dictation a lot so I talk to my computer: it writes it all down and at the end of it I can see it all and I’ve got it off my chest and I don’t have to carry those feelings around with me anymore.
So, we start off by thinking about the event that’s causing us this pain and we say “I feel fearful, I feel fearful because …” and then you explain what it is about the event that is filling you with fear.
Oh sorry, I know it’s better to start with anger actually to be honest. Correct that – start with anger because anger is a very, very powerful emotion and we often feel very, very angry that things haven’t worked out the way we want.
Interestingly women have more trouble – just generalizing – women often have trouble expressing anger, whereas men often have trouble expressing fear.
So, we start off by saying “I feel angry because…” and then you fill that in completing the sentence, and you say it over and over and over again. “I feel angry because…” and then you say why you’re feeling angry until you exhaust all the ways that you could feel angry about this pain that you’re feeling.
The next one to consider is fear because if something bad has happened there’s often a fearful context to it. You might fear that because something has ended that you won’t be able to recreate that again, or that if you’ve lost a job, you might be fearful that you’re not going to get another suitable job. Or if you’ve missed out on some other opportunity, you might fear that the opportunities won’t come back again. Or if it’s a relationship that’s ended, you might feel fearful that you’ll never be able to recreate a similar relationship again, etc.
So again, we go through the same process. We either write it, or we say it to somebody, or we dictate it: “I feel fearful because…” and then we say why we feel fearful. We go through it over and over again explaining all the reasons why we are fearful, what it is about the situation that is causing us to feel fear.
Continue until you’ve exhausted the list of ways that you feel fearful about this issue. Go as long as you can and if you’re crying and need a box of tissues, that’s really good! The more you can let that emotion out the better, because once it’s released – think of the beach balls – it won’t come back again.
The next one is sorrow and sorrow refers to the future. If something has ended, something that you valued, it means that you’re not going to have that opportunity again, perhaps, and so again we say: “I feel sorry because …” and you talk about what opportunities may be missing in the future. You go through it through that until you’re totally exhausted the list of ways in which you feel sorrow.
Now the final one is sadness and that’s because something has ended, or something is no longer possible.
And so you say “I feel sad because…” and you keep saying “I feel sad because…”, “I feel sad because…” and you fill in the gap to complete each sentence until you can say it no more – you have listed all the ways that you feel sad about this situation.
In the end, you’ll find that you will have exhausted all those emotions, all that anger, all that fear, all that sorrow and all that sadness and they won’t haunt you again.
By doing this you will release a lot of these inner struggles that that you might end up carrying around otherwise.
So, I’m doing that with respect to this particular issue I’m dealing with at the moment and I hope that you find this process to be really helpful.