Acceptance Part 3 Learning to Name Uncomfortable Feelings
Does it sound familiar to “not want” to feel sad, or mad, or scared? Yet, as a course of life, you find uncomfortable feelings crop up? Ever find yourself in the position where, once again, the moment goes one of two ways: Your feelings either take control, and gain speed like a sprinter at the Olympics, or, you try shoving them out of your mind, because “you know better than to act on them”, so you just pile them behind other thoughts? Either way, you are left with your feelings forcing you, bullying you, into taking action, or inaction, blindly.
Would you like to take the Bully Power away from these uncomfortable feelings of yours? You can; by giving them a name, and observing them. This is the starting point of deflating their “bully status”.
If you’ve been following the first two parts of this Practicing Acceptance Series, right about now you might be thinking, “We are only observing feelings from a neutral place; what is all this about seeing the feelings I’ve been avoiding as bullies? Isn’t that passing judgement on my feelings?” Let me put it simply: It is one thing to learn about changes you want to make, and think the solution is a great idea. It is often quite a different story when you step away from the screen, or pages, or the enthusiastic eyes of the person explaning it to you, and you are by yourself; face to face with old habits kicking in. Using words that resonate with an old way of thinking, to create a toe-hold for a new way of thinking to take over, has worked for me in the past. Regardless of how the ball-of-change gets rolling, the objective is to actually get it rolling. How it was worded to turn your willingness into action will be a moot point.
So then, we cannot stop emotions and feelings from “being what they are”. And we know experiencing them, the way they are in reality, is what helps us grow.
Since it is a fact they are going to show up on our doorstep, and like it or not, we cannot wish them away or think around them, something will be done in response to them. Even the act of doing nothing, is doing something. As for doing nothing, just ignoring them, we really don’t want to. The price for ignoring them is giving away a lot of happiness and gaining a lot of misery. [Covered in detail Acceptance Part 2] https://lifewithholley.com/2019/01/31/how-to-observe-emotions-when-practicing-acceptance/
That leaves us with the only real option left: Looking at them, while they are being experienced. But how do we get them in front of us, so we can really observe? Feelings seem hard to catch and very pushy; always zipping around, causing drama, and stirring up other feelings. Brace yourself, the answer may surprise you!
The effective way to really investigate the wild, bossy visitors at your front door is:
Get their attention by calling them by name, and then ask them in for a figurative cuppa… tea, coffee, whatever.
Yes, crazy as it may sound, addressing by name and inviting in what you’re avoiding is what works.
Now, I know you have not been on the best of terms with uncomfortable feelings, even wishing they would go anywhere else than bothering you. But before you abandon this idea of a calm sit-down, just to observe them, or decide you would rather fight with them and attempt forcing them off your porch, give a little thought to what happens when you don’t calmly invite them in: For one, you will strengthen their power to make you increasingly uncomfortable. Secondly, you won’t get the full benefit of what accompanies these annoying feelings: ‘Emotions’. You know emotions; the things that sparked all of this drama in the first place? In case you have forgotten (as I have from time to time): The reason they are so persistent is because they instinctively exist to try and protect you.
When you address your feelings by name, and welcome them to sit in front of you, the process of seeing them as visitors, instead of intruders, begins. What has begun to happenfrom the minute you take your seat, is this: By even agreeing to sit down with them and observe them, no matter what you find, you have already let some of the air out of their tires. Which means: They are not going to be able to take you for an unwilling ride as easily. With them out of the bully role, and you out of the victim roll, you can lean in close, take a good look at them, and see what they are really composed of. The information you need for an honest report about what you’re observing is there, without posing a threat. [For specifics on how to discover feeling names, continue reading below: Understand More-Digging Deeper.]
Here are a few examples of what is meant by names for feelings, and the emotions they are often related to: [See Anti-Challenge below for more feeling names/labels ]
AVOIDING CATCH-ALL NAMES Digging Deeper than: “I’m not upset; I just don’t feel like talking.”
Now, about labeling feelings with names: You’d think it would be easy to slap a label on “how you feel”. However, for many it is not. There’s nothing to feel foolish about if you have a hard time getting a good look at feelings. So rarely do we pay attention to the details of them, that they can become quite skilled at playing peek- a-boo; running anywhere they please, and even hunkering down to hide behind elevated blood pressure, headaches, or anything else they think will mask them. Based on my experience, I can assure you they are not invisible, once you are sincerely looking for them. If you pay attention to them, you become familiar with their hiding spots; making it much easier to catch a glimpse of them. They are never as sly as they think they are; a glimpse will lead you right to them.
Not to say this comes easy at first. If you are like I was, before actively looking for my feelings, the name/label report you turn into yourself after observing them may be full of catch-all words.
Catch-all words are ones which could describe many different feelings; perhaps not even close to what you’re experiencing. Some of my vague labels were: “okay”, “fine”, “mad”, “sad”, “scared”, and even the queen-bee of catch-all’s: “I’m not upset, I just don’t feel like talking right now”. Please, don’t sweat it if they seem hard to find at first. There are simple sit still and sifting tools for uncovering them. The difficulties most people run into are a result of not picking up the tools and trying to use them in the first place, and then not using them again, over and over. [Continue reading for sit still and sifting tools, as well as a prompt list of names for feelings in Anti-Challenge Reframing.]
THE SPOT I ALWAYS GOT STUCK AT… A primary take-away I hope you get about naming/labeling feelings, is something I missed when I was first learning to practice acceptance: It’s great to know what you need to do and a good way to go about it; especially seeing specific examples of how it has been done. But what is really important, is taking the time to give thought to how the names/labels resonate with you personally. As in, what do “you personally” sense when describing your feelings as ‘disappointed, vengeful, hopeful’, etc.? Understanding my personal interpretation, as it applied to my specific life, is where a sense of ease, and being true to myself, began to really blossom.
When naming feelings, specific examples, while useful, are in my opinion more like spring boards; they give us a starting place to help us find what specifically resonates within us individually. Without thought, copy-and-paste wordsdo not yield much in the way of change.
Aquick word on the feelings that the emotion of happiness brings: Since this series looks at how practicing acceptance enables us to face uncomfortable situations, of course the feelings focused on are based on unpleasant emotions (anger, sadness, fear). However, I want to mention that the methods used to investigate the true identities of the unpleasant, are the same used to discover the labels of feelings sparked by the emotion of happiness. Sorting out the correct label for the pleasant feelings you experience is yet another tool that can enhance positivity in your life. Regardless of how your feelings impact your immediate situation, or your future, you can’t go wrong with getting to know yourself better!
1. Learn to use sit still and sifting tools 2. Become familiar with what you sense, when apply names for feelings. (The actual process of observing feelings is not exactly a cognitive action. However, what is reframing, to my mind, is: Coming to understand that making the effort to sit down, “feel”, and observe, will make a difference in how well you practice acceptance.)
1. Read through sit still and sifting tools description, how to use them, and the example. 2. Read through list of names/labels for feelings. 3. Think through some, or all, of the feeling label words (1-3 at a time). BIG HINT: When you think through the feeling labels at the end of this section, one at a time, try to recall a personal experience you have had that you believe the feeling name(label) would describe. You may want to think through other feeling names instead of these, but the point is: Personalizing these names of feelings, in relation to your own experiences, introduces these names on a level that is easier to retain. This isn’t something you “study for”, but I can tell you first hand, it helped me tremendously to at least be familiar with what resonated in my personal past, before emotions were in high gear.
Sit Still and Sifting Tools
TWO TOOLS I use often are my sit still and sifting tools, which are: 1. just enoughPATIENCE 2.just enoughPERSEVERANCE
Uncovering the feelings I am honestly experiencing usually requires me to usesit still and sifting tools. I didn’t think they were all that important at first. Until, I kept trying, and kept failing without them. Failing I did care about; not because I was “supposed to” achieve anything, but because I wanted to get on with feeling better. What I had no more patience for, was the same old run-around I had been going through.
STEP-BY-STEP HOW TO
Using my “just enoughPATIENCE” and “just enoughPERSEVERANCE” (and a little courage) I asked myself these 3 questions to find my feeling labels: 1. “What’s that feeling mean to me?” 2. “Why?” 3. “What’s the feeling now?” Eventually, I got in the habit of repeating these 3 questions until I got to what seemed the bottom line.
FOR EXAMPLE: If I’d been waiting for a parking stall with my blinker on, and another car, just arriving from the opposite direction, whipped into the stall I had been waiting for: My initial response: “Mad!” Q1:What does mad mean Holley? A: “It means indignant!” Q2: What’s indignant mean, Holley? A: “It means annoyed, because it isn’t fair!” Q3: Oh good, you answered why; because it isn’t fair. What’s the feeling now? A: “I have feelings of being short-changed (cheated), disrespected and being overlooked.”
Finally, an Answer!
Ah! Okay, now we’re getting somewhere. Before asking myself this succession of 3 questions, I honestly did not have a clue that part of what I was feeling was fear. Feeling short changed, disrespected, and overlooked have undertones of fear. Additional thought brought the realization that my fear stemmed from not getting what I felt was mine, and not meeting whatever needs I believed I had. My needs prompted my choosing the parking place I was waiting for in the first place. As you might be starting to see, the process of practicing acceptance can give you the distance to see things clearer, which in turn, gives you some realistic information to aid you in working on solutions.
Reminder and Don’t Sweat Exact Names
Remember: Practicing acceptance is actually the opposite of rolling over and letting uncomfortable situations mow you over. It is taking action that results in a minimum of two things: 1. Your ability to be moreat peace in the moment. 2. Provides real information you can use to create real change in the future.
NOTE: The names of feelings below have been separated by “some” of the emotions they relate to. To give you an idea about specific feelings being difficult to pin down, let’s use the example of Robert Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions. *It is used to objectively identify intense feelings; his research showed there are 34,000 distinguishable emotions. That’s a lot of specific combinations. A professional in the helping field, or even in-depth research, can assist working out which specific feelings you are experiencing, as you feel needed. Keep in mind, the only objective now is Observe.
Please don’t let concern over not being able to spot-on-identify what to name your feelings, stop you from observing. I’ve seen countless people allow this to stop them from progressing. Observing is part of the process of practicing acceptance, which will still add to your ease in facing the uncomfortable situations and feelings you once ran from; which is a lot more than you had before.
Use these names below, or other descriptive words for feelings, to help you get started identifying what you sense you are experiencing.
Additionally, one of the resources I found helpful that speaks in understandable terms, was a book by Karla McLaren, The Language of Emotions. An excerpt from the book, as well as how to obtain the resource, can be found at: https://www.karlamclaren.com/emotional-vocabulary-page/
BLUEBIRD OF HAPPINESS; PIGEON STYLE Seems most everyone has a fairly strong opinion about pigeons. Love ‘em, or hate ‘em, they just do their own thing, don’t they? Regardless of their reputation as foul fowl, I am fascinated and enchanted by them.
Of course, opinions on pigeons are usually based on one’s interactions, and to what degree one feels inconvenienced, or even threatened by their presence. Don’t get me wrong , there are real threats; there’s nothing ‘enchanting’ about diseases carried on bird feet and feathers.
That being said, I was wondering why pigeons tend to be the main fall-guy-villians in the media? As I understand it from the United States Federal CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), several Blackbird species are higher ranked dangers than pigeons, for spread of the disease in question. Additionally, pigeon droppings do not purportedly carry the fungal spores responsible for this epidemic level respiratory disease in the United States. The spores originate in the guano once it’s on the ground. [Sounds to me like I had better keep an eye on the flocks of Blackbirds I photograph!]
Although, washing a car frequently so the uric acid doesn’t eat away the metal, or, having to maneuver around droppings, sounds like a pretty good motivator for disenchantment.
Sure, a few pigeons here and there is not big deal. However, when you look at it mathmatically from a New York City point of view; oh my! With approximately 1 million pigeons calculated in NYC; a flock of 100 able to produce 4,800 pounds of guano a year, let’s see… that’s 48 million lbs. (almost 22 million kg) per year, so roughly… 132 thousand lbs. (60 thousand kg) of pigeon poo, per day?! As I said, personal interaction with a problem sure can effect an opinion!
Back to my point…
In any case, I admit it, I’m drawn to pigeons. You know what hooks me every time, don’t you? Beyond their lilting coo, it’s what they wear. That tilted web of thin, pigmented threads, built into their neck and chest feathers. I can’t resist the way it creates a flash of vibrant, iridescent colors; that’s what mesmerizes me.
If they sported these flashy hues at any angle, they would not fascinate me nearly as much; where would be the thrill of color-hide-and-seek in that? No, what enchants me, time and again, is the fact that if they move a fraction of an inch, or I move just as slightly, the brilliant colors disappear.
It’s all about patience with pigeons; patience and perseverance. Come to think of it, I suppose those are two universal ingredients to unlocking “Ah Ha!” moments with many situations in life that are not always easy to see. The funny thing about hard to spot gems in life: Once you’ve caught a glimpse of them, they keep pulling you back to investigate more. At least they always seem to pull be back. Why? Because I know a glimpse means: What I’m after is right in front of me. All I have to do is focus and pay attention to any pattern of movement; sooner or later, the hard to spot thing will be revealed. Why yes, it is indeed just like those sneaky feelings we need to observe.
Image: “Bluebird of Happiness; Pigeon Style” f/5.6 – 1/4000– ISO 800 focal length 300mm Canon EOS Digital Rebel 11/18/17
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