Rain or shine? Check your feelings forecast
Feelings. We all have them, they are part of what makes us human, but how much attention do we give them?
Some people are ruled by their feelings and find them hard to ignore. Others, for all kinds of reasons, have trouble getting in touch with them. Everyone, consciously or unconsciously, is affected by their feelings and getting to know and understand them can be useful and important.
Understanding our feelings
One way of understanding our feelings is through how we describe or imagine them. This process leads us to use more of the right-hand side of the brain, rather than more logical thinking on the left-hand side. This helps us to intuitively get in touch with how we feel.
For instance, you could relate how you are feeling to something about the weather. You might say you feel sunny, indicating you feel happy. Or perhaps you feel like thunder, angry and frustrated. Thunder’s not an emotion, but the choice of words brings a lot of depth and meaning to the way you are feeling.
Descriptions of feelings related to the weather are also useful because we feel the effects of the weather, such as the heat of the sun or the cold sting on our skin.
Imagine a time when you were out walking in really strong wind, being buffeted around and having your ability to walk forward considerably slowed down. Bring to mind how that felt, the energy needed to put one foot in front of the other. The force pushing against you slowed you down. Sometimes life can feel like that, with issues pushing and pulling us, or people making demands that create considerable pressure.
What are our drivers?
In the counselling approach of transactional analysis (TA), one of the main concepts is drivers (Kahler and Capers, 1974). There are five drivers: hurry up, try hard, people please, be perfect and be strong. These drivers, which are observable behaviours, develop in children as a result of being in relation to the people around them. Be strong could be said to relate particularly to feelings.
As children, we had to come to terms with the world around us which often meant adapting to parents or caregivers. We would have shown our emotions, anger, fear, sadness and joy plenty of times. For some of us though, showing these emotions would not have been acceptable, for all kinds of reasons. We therefore may have unconsciously decided to be strong, in order to be OK to the people that raised us.
Being strong may absolutely be appropriate and necessary for a child to use, but importantly, it can cover up very painful feelings of not being OK. These covered authentic feelings, possibly coming out later in different kinds of ways as the child gets older.
What children learn when they are young, they will use when they are adults. If people continue being strong in adulthood, behaving OK when they are not, then problems can begin to develop. Feelings though are completely normal, so it’s important to be aware of them and express them.
Checking in on how you feel
A simple exercise then is just to check in with yourself. How am I feeling? If that’s difficult to do, then try saying, if I could picture or describe my feelings using the weather, what would I say?
- I feel sunny and bright.
- My mind feels foggy and I’m confused about what to do or where to go.
- It’s like hail in my head, I feel like I'm being pelted by different things from all directions.
It’s not so much about the words or images you use, but the meaning behind them. Connecting with the meaning can be like walking over a bridge to how you feel.
Talking about our feelings to someone, who is listening attentively can be important, as it helps us to feel seen, heard and validated. Perhaps more significant is acknowledging to ourselves how we are feeling. By taking a moment to see how we feel, we can bring to the surface, from the dark depths of our mind, the feelings that are stirring behind our day-to-day life.
So, check what your feelings forecast is. This might help you be prepared for the day ahead and consider what you will need.