Lesson #4: You don’t have to act on every feeling. You can just have a feeling.
I have a lot of anxiety. More on this lesson another time down the road, but let me just mention it because it's important for this lesson. I used to have a TON of anxiety. Now I have less anxiety thanks to therps and meds and breathing exercises and being happier with my life and also magnesium.
For those of you that don't deal with large amounts of anxiety, let me tell you what happens when you have a feeling that makes you uncomfortable or anxious.
Me; I'm feeling sad.
Anxiety: WHAT UP GIRL you should definitely do something about it right now so the bad feeling will go away.
Me: Well is sad a "bad feeling"? Maybe it's just a feeling and it's ok not to act on it and I can try to just notice it and let it pass in its own time.
Anxiety: You can't deal with it, you're definitely going to die if you experience this feeling for much longer. Definitely make some decisions that will temporarily alleviate sad feeling.
Anxiety: Can I interest you in a poorly worded text message to that guy you were sleeping with who has no respect for you?
Anxiety: DO SOMETHINGGGGGG.
(A note: My anxiety is hella extra.)
I have a tendency to act on feelings immediately because I want the feeling to go away as quickly as possible - when what I actually end up responding to is the anxiety that comes with the feeling. And when I'm too afraid to act on the feeling, I try numbing it with Netflix marathons. And food. And when that stops working I try to create chaos in other parts of my life to distract myself from said feeling.
But the only feeling I'm really reacting to in those moments is the anxious feeling. Not the sadness or anger or fear. Anxiety takes up a lot of space.
This isn't a post about how I learned to stop numbing or making rash decisions, by the way. I still do this all the time. I struggle to stay put and let the feeling wash over me. Or to say, "oh hey, uninvited feeling friend. I want you to stay for a bit and we can sit together, but I'd also like you to leave."
But I've gotten better - reminding myself that the feeling doesn't have to equal an action or decision is key. Accepting the feeling with as much openness as I can muster works. Being curious about the feeling helps - "What's going on little feeling, why are YOU here right now?" So does talking to trusted loved ones.
The beautiful thing about therps is that you have someone to remind you that a feeling is just that. It's a feeling. It can be a terrible feeling that is attached to some terrible truths or memories or experiences. But it doesn't demand an immediate action. Sometimes all it warrants is a little attention, curiosity or tolerance.
How do other people manage the harder feelings? Blanket fort? Meditation? Share below.