Do you avoid feelings?

When we’re with other people, we regulate one another’s moods. Talking to others also allows us to process difficult events, thoughts and feelings so that we feel much better afterwards. Experiencing a sense of connection or belonging is important to our overall sense of identity or well-being. Recently, though, many people are finding that their general sense of 'okayness' has been lost.


Some of this is because much of our contact with the outside world is through news and social media rather than directly with other people. We’re overloaded with information about disasters and bad news whilst experiencing far less opportunity to download or process our own feelings. The balance between social interactions which help regulate mood and social media exposure which creates anxiety has shifted for many people, leaving us with a sense that something is wrong - and it's common to blame ourselves for this.

Since the pandemic, many of us have both seen less of friends and relatives and become generally less sociable. More of us conduct work meetings and social catch-ups mainly online. Further casualties of the lost routine of our lives may include those small social encounters with work colleagues or even just on the way to work when we chat with the person who sells us coffee or a newspaper.

More of us work from home and, while this can be isolating, some of us find that other people in the house rob us of the important moments of solitude we need to regulate our mood. Previously, many people found the journey to work provided some downtime. If you've lost this, it’s worth considering how you now achieve those few moments of peace in your day when you can reboot.


As we become more solitary, our empathic connection with others diminishes. Research demonstrates we have become significantly less empathic during the past 30 years, a deterioration which has accelerated in the past 15 years. Our lack of compassion towards ourselves can keep us either permanently self-critical or unable to self-reflect, needing to find ways to prove our worth and avoid feeling.

Indeed, despite a more open attitude towards mental health in recent years, for many people, feelings are shameful. They may believe there’s something wrong with themselves when quick fixes they try aren’t instantly helpful. Yet, it takes time to repair difficult experiences, and a willingness to experience some of the feelings associated with them so they can be effectively processed.

Many people think that experiencing their feelings will make them go out of control. In fact, the opposite is true. Noticing is the first step towards this. Body scanning, where we become aware of changes in physical sensations, can be difficult if we’ve habitually pushed feelings away. But, when we do manage to notice them, we’re able to relate them to our mood, thoughts and behaviour, and recognise how these affect one another. Only then can they be managed.

Pleasure and achievement 

Behaviours which unlock positive feeling states, and are potentially healing, include any kind of contact with nature, pets and people you’re comfortable with. Creative activities of all sorts are great for improving concentration, relaxing and generating a sense of achievement.

Indeed, it’s helpful to end every day thinking of three things you’ve enjoyed and three things you’ve achieved. Try not to critique your choices. They don’t need to be huge. It’s often the little elements of daily life which provide the most pleasure and pride. Don’t discount them. It can even be helpful to score your daily activities out of 10 for pleasure and achievement so that you can recognise them more readily. Only then can you enjoy them more mindfully and look forward to them.

Some of us believe that the more we neglect ourselves, the better we’ll be. Yet self-sacrifice contains none of the positive properties of sufficient sleep, a healthy diet or pleasant experiences with your partner, friends or family. If you’re neglecting your life for a belief that martyrdom will bring you brownie points, forget it. The more you create the habit of overwork and self-negligence, the more it’ll be expected.

The universe doesn’t know you made a deal to earn rewards through lack of self-care. It would be far better to connect with your feelings, look at your life and work out what you need and enjoy, and what you can change to do lots more of that.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, HP19
Written by Cate Campbell, MA, PGDip (PST), MBACP (Accred), AccCOSRT, EMDR EuropeAccred
Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, HP19

Cate Campbell is a psychotherapist specialising in trauma, sex and relationships.

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