Choose What Feelings You Feed
This one hits right at the heart of who I am.
I am a BIG feeler! I feel everything. Every bump and scratch. Every harsh word. Every thought. Every hope. Every fear. I feel all the feels, all the time and am often ruled by them, held back by them, and frightened by them. In fact, just like five minutes ago while sitting at my desk, I had to Edna E. Mode myself.
It’s just a consequence of feeling deeply that we get sucked into our emotions. And we’re in good company, us feelers. I mean, have you read the Psalms? King David was a Drama Mama. He knew how to let it out; he wasn’t trying to ignore his fears, his anger, or his joy, and while we can’t know for sure what his day to day actions looked like, we can gather a guess from his writings that he knew how to acknowledge what he was feeling but was pretty good about not giving them masterful power. Now, read that carefully because I’m not saying that he took control of his feelings. I’m saying he just didn’t give them more power.
I don’t believe that we should try to control what we feel and I’m honestly a little nervous that in reading this article, you’re going to walk away thinking that you have to micromanage every feeling that enters and flows through you. You don’t. That’s not the solution. But we do try to do that, don’t we? When we feel something overwhelming (good or bad), us feelers generally have one of two reactions. We either give into it and let ourselves ride the wave of our own emotions until it fades out (Actually, I always imagined a train that can’t stop until it hits a wall because that’s what riding my emotions felt like) or we try to stop the feeling and to stuff it down, getting angry with ourselves in the meantime, “Why do I feel this way?!” In other words, we try to gain mastery over the feeling, show it who’s boss and exert our power over it with an aggression that inevitably ricochets back onto ourselves (so damaging and unhealthy!). That form of control is merely circumventing the feeling. It’s not actually draining the overwhelming emotion of its power over us, but feeding it power so that when it comes back next time it will be stronger, more overwhelming, harder to resist. All you’ve done is shown your feelings that they DO scare you, have power over you and that you don’t really know what to do with them! You can try to tell yourself to feel something different than whatever feeling is overwhelming you right now, but I’m telling you there’s a better way that has nothing to do with control. In fact, it requires that we relinquish controlling our feelings and instead focus on what we are feeding our feelings.
We want to starve those unhealthy feelings enough to put them in their rightful place (remember, feelings aren’t bad and will always come) and feed them truth.
See, our feelings are sneaky things. They kind of make us FEEL like they’re all-powerful, all-knowing, and have a life of their own. That’s why we try to puff up our chest and one-up them with these pseudo-control methods. But here’s the secret…they’re actually dependent on us for survival. They can’t live apart from what we feed them. If I wake up feeling ugly one day, then while in front of the bathroom mirror start finagling with my face…
I wish my eyes were bigger.
Ugh, I hate how this part of my face droops a little.
And then while trying on clothes I start criticizing myself for not looking like a Greco-roman sculpture or Gigi Hadid in my outfit…
Why can’t my belly just lose this little bit of fat?
If my legs were longer, I’d be able to wear so much more.
Did I just give that feeling of being ugly a little bit more life and longevity?
And those feelings are never satisfied. The more we feed them, the more they want. The more they want, the more we try to shut them up and stuff them down only to have them come back stronger. And so the cycle continues.
That’s where we come in; that’s where our choice prevails. To realize that we can stop that cycle, take notice of what we’re feeling and choose not to feed it, but to instead employ the DBT Practice of Opposite Actions and to counter our feelings with truth with the understanding that destructive feelings are rooted in lies.
So yes, sometimes I feel ugly, but actually, I’m not and my appearance holds no weight in God’s courtroom.
Don’t feed the feelings that want to pull you away from the truth.