Feelings can be used appropriately or inappropriately. They can be based on accurate or inaccurate information. They can lead to adaptive behaviour or maladaptive behaviour. It is important to know how you feel and what to do when you have a feeling. Feelings will help you to solve problems. Without using your feelings appropriately, you never will be able to solve problems well. Yet, we try and numb these feelings, and problems inevitably occur. When you feel, you will be experiencing one or more of the eight primary feelings. Jealousy is feeling fearful, angry, and sad all at the same time. Each feeling needs to be addressed for full resolution of the problem. Being in touch with your feeling
If you feel confused about how to use your feelings appropriately, then you are feeling many feelings at the same time. Some of these feelings may be in conflict with each other, and you may be torn about what to do. When confused, you must separate each feeling and examine it carefully. What is each feeling telling you to do? What is the most rational thing to do?
When you have a feeling, you must decide how to act. The feeling is motivating you to take action. Feelings need to flow naturally and spontaneously into adaptive action. The actions must be appropriate to the situation. To always fight when you are angry is not appropriate. Most of the time, it is necessary to stop and think before you act. You want to use your feelings. When you are having an intense feeling, always ask yourself two questions:
- What is the best thing I can do for myself?
- What is the best thing I can do for others?
For the most part, you must practice thinking and planning before you act. Plan carefully how you are going to act when you have each feeling and practice this action until it flows naturally.
Your feelings are important. They are great and wise counsellors that need to be listened to. You do not need to hide from your feelings. You need to listen and learn.
Guidelines for how to use your feelings appropriately: Practice this alone or socially.
|Try to be specific rather than general about how you feel. Consistently using only one or two words to say how you are feeling, such as bad or upset, is too vague and general. What kind of bad or upset? (Irritated, mad, anxious, afraid, sad, hurt, lonely, etc.).|
|Specify the degree of the feelings, and you will reduce the chances of being misunderstood. For example, some people may think when you say, “I am angry” means you are extremely angry when you actually mean a “little irritated”. You can’t really be a little bit of anything, you either are or you are not. So look for the right word to express the right emotion.|
|When expressing anger or irritation, first describe the specific behavior you don’t like, then your feelings. This helps to prevent the other person from becoming immediately defensive or intimidated when they first hear “I am angry with you”, and they could miss the message.|
|If you have mixed feelings, say so, and express each feeling and explain what each feeling is about. For example: “I have mixed feelings about what you just did. I am glad and thankful that you helped me, but I didn’t like the comment about being stupid. It was disrespectful and unnecessary and I found it irritating”.|
Common Communication of feelings errors:
|Not expressing a feeling at all, expressing a belief or judgment.|
|Sending a disguised “You” message instead of ownership with an “I” statement. Ask counsellors and peers to point this out to you in group. This will help you take responsibility for the feelings and to be more direct with your feelings.|
|Only expressing negative feelings. Express ALL the feelings. Even the confusing ones.|
|The nonverbal body language contradicting the words. For example, smiling when irritated. Passive aggressive behavior. Sarcasm. Visible frustration, along with a statement like “okay, well I never get it right…” Is non-congruence. |
Really identifying how to use your feelings appropriately “Feelings are the doorway you need to pass through”
Before we can change our behaviour – ACTING OUT – we need to pass through the sometimes painful doorway of exploring, identifying and dealing with our feelings. Feelings are not there to make you miserable. Rather, emotions provide you with information about your interior life. Wrapped inside your feelings are messages you need to hear – but fear prevents us from staying with the feeling long enough to hear ourselves. Feelings are not facts; they cannot harm you and they do pass. You cannot ignore your emotional signals or your life will remain stuck. If you remain stuck you invite depression and anxiety to flourish and acting out behaviour to continue. Identifying how you feel can sometimes be confusing you know that you are feeling something but may not know exactly what.
To start learning how to use your feelings appropriately it can be useful to distinguish between primary and secondary emotions. Primary emotions are sadness, anger, fear, sexual feelings and joy (Hendricks & Hendricks, 1993). Other emotions and feelings are a combination of these. e.g. Guilt – combination of fear and anger – so once the primary emotion is identified it helps to go deeper and become aware of the other feelings that are present. Next is the connection between our emotions and body – each primary emotion creates body sensations. We feel our feelings in our bodies. Tuning into your body sensations can help you to identify how you are feeling on a deeper level and to stay with your feelings. The best thing you can do with your feelings is to identify the primary emotions and to feel them!!!
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