The way you learn to handle your feelings is, first, by learning all the tricks to “manage” them with mindfulness and will power. You can learn and practice those on your own all day, every day. Try any self-help book or Google it. When those tactics fail, the way you learn to handle your feelings is by getting to know yourself. When you know yourself, you don’t have to handle your feelings because they never need to be “handled.” They just exist.
You may think you already know yourself, but if you aren’t handling your feelings, you don’t know yourself as well as you need to.
The reason you have to get to know yourself is that will-power can never indefinitely overcome your unconscious mind. It’s not just that you aren’t trying hard enough. Handling your feelings does not come from “white-knuckling it.” That might work for a while, but then you explode. What lasts a lot longer is numbing yourself, but when you numb yourself you don’t feel anything good either. You have no joy in your life.
Originally, you learned to handle your feelings by interacting with your parents. As they got to know your tiny little self, they conveyed to you whether you were allowed to express the feelings you were having or not. They did this with their eye contact, facial expressions, tone of voice, posture, gesture, timing, and intensity. They communicated information to you that they had no idea they were communicating, and that you can’t possibly remember. It just made you the way you are and taught you to hold in certain feelings. In fact, it may have taught you to believe that there are certain feelings that you just don’t have at all.
These are the parts of yourself that you need to get to know again.
When you reacted to your caregivers’ non-verbal communications, you did what would keep them happy, because when they were happy, you felt safe and cared for. This is the ultimate goal of children. Everything you did as a child was meant to help you feel safe and cared for. In that process, you learned that sometimes you had to keep feelings inside of you that you really wanted to express. And in order to do that, you had to contort your body to keep the feelings from coming out. That’s why you look the way you do, and that’s why you act the way you do.
In order to change the way you act, you must become familiar with those parts of yourself that you think don’t exist, and love them. Then you will never have to “handle” your feelings.
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