View original article published in Psych Central–
This was a title of a popular Western movie in the 60s, and indeed in life we will encounter situations we may consider good, bad, or ugly. It’s just the way our mind works. Our mind is an expert evaluator of feelings. When individuals are asked what feelings they would consider good, bad or ugly, they can readily create a list for each category.
Feelings are neither good nor bad. They are simply emotions that arise depending on situations we encounter. They can run their course if we allow them to do so. Society and our upbringing influence the way we look at our feelings. As we get older our mind becomes our own judge and tells us whether a feeling is good, bad, or ugly. “You should not be anxious. You are a mess!”
Have you noticed what happens when you hear those words in your mind? Most likely you start rejecting the feeling because you believe you are not supposed to have it. “I should not be anxious. Calm down. I hate this!”
As our mind tries to help us, the specific feeling that we try to control skyrockets –the opposite of what we were trying to accomplish. The more we fight it, the more it lingers. Feelings are part of our nature. We can learn to look at them as such — feelings.
Feelings have a function. Our body receives constant cues from the external world that bring about thoughts, feelings, sensations, and urges. Our mind then helps us respond accordingly. For example, when we perceive danger, fear sets in so we can find protection. Though we would like to eliminate fear from our existence, this is not possible. Otherwise we would not live very long.
Imagine your best friend’s mother dies. If you had been successful at deleting sadness because you consider it a bad feeling, how could you comfort your best friend? Would you be able to show empathy for her sorrow?
Anger, fear, and sadness are emotions that come and go naturally. Anger is often misunderstood. When we feel wronged or threatened, anger may show up because it is part of our survival mechanism.
How we respond to our feelings is what matters. When we feel angry, we may mindlessly give in to the urge to yell or behave in hurtful ways. Our mind is most likely fused because we haven’t broadened the space of awareness between our internal experiences such as our feelings and our behavior. Thus, we may react inappropriately. Some people believe anger is a bad feeling. It is not. The behavior that we choose to exhibit after anger or other emotions is what may be wrong.
Emotions show up at different times of the day. A variety of circumstances can determine how we feel. We may at times be able to control the external situations, but sometimes we simply cannot. However, we can choose what to do with our feelings once they are in motion.
An experiment. The next time you experience unpleasant feelings, go ahead and feud with them. However, consciously become aware of the strategies you are using to eliminate those feelings. Notice how ineffective your actions are in the long run. Do you feel exhausted afterwards? Could there be a different way to look at unpleasant emotions?
When unpleasant feelings and sensations show up thereafter, follow these suggestions and see what happens:
- Name the feeling, by saying, “I’m noticing the feeling of …”
- Scan your body from head to toe and look for the sensations related to the feeling you are experiencing in that moment.
- Describe the sensations you notice in your body, “I’m noticing the bodily sensation of …”
- Observe the sensation with curiosity.
- Remember that what you are experiencing is a natural body response. Trying to fight something that is built into your system only leads to frustration, and it doesn’t work.
- Let your feeling carry on with its function without fighting it.
- Anchor yourself by breathing in and as you breathe out, imagine breathing into the area of your body that needs to expand and make room for the sensation that is visiting your body in that moment.
Your mind will most likely continue to label things as good, bad and ugly, because that is what it does. However, notice when it tells you to remove your feelings as if they were a pair of old sneakers. Remember, you cannot toss feelings away like you do things. Once emotions commence, you cannot stop them. Allow them to run their course. Embrace them instead of denying them!