How to work with feelings

How to work with feelings

Your feelings are important data for understanding yourself, your boundaries and how to make good decisions. However, feelings are not facts. They are an individual, internal response to a given situation, which is why feelings vary from person to person. Ideally, feelings are not the primary driver of behaviour but nor should they be disregarded either. We must seek the middle ground when acting from our feelings.

Feelings need to be validated and considered but we don’t want them driving the bus. Of course, sometimes our feelings are so strong we feel powerless not to act on them. These strong emotional responses (sometimes referred to as triggers) often have their origin in past events that were experienced as traumatic at the time. If you were very young when the event occurred, you may not even be aware that an encoded memory is driving your emotional experience in the present.

When your emotions are functioning optimally physical feelings simply come and go without being stuck. When there is, or has been, relational difficulty or trauma your body holds onto emotions. When you find yourself in a situation where a trigger occurs (real or imagined), your body sends an instantaneous danger signal, and the difficult or stuck emotion replays again.

Difficult interpersonal relationships can become laden with emotional triggers, making it hard for you to keep your composure. Uncomfortable or traumatic unresolved feelings can become part of your everyday felt experience – part of your physiology. These feelings are held as tension in the muscle, fibres, and cells within your body. As the great Bessel Van der Kolk says, “the body keeps score”.

To find some relief, you may think that it is helpful to talk about, vent, or get to the bottom of your feelings. It is normal to hope that by understanding why you are feeling like this, the feelings will go away. Sometimes that is true and understanding yourself in a different light brings healing and resolution. But sometimes it doesn’t, and by endlessly talking about your feelings you simply strengthen them and ensure their continuation.

With deeply held wounded feelings healing must come from working therapeutically with the very emotions we so desperately want to avoid. For emotions contain a deep wisdom about our needs for safety, security, love, and acceptance. Sometimes these needs were not or are not being met – sometimes profoundly so.

Even your most challenging emotions and behaviours contain wisdom within them. Yet it can be scary to go there. You may fear that if you really feel it, you will not cope, you will fall apart, maybe you won’t survive, such is the strength of your pain. This is not the case, if difficult and stuck feelings are worked with skillfully and therapeutically.

What you feel, you can heal. What you resist, persists. There are many ways to release stuck emotions and bring more freedom and lightness to your lived experience. Dancing, singing, yoga and meditation are popular choices. There are also Somatic Psychotherapies such as Resource Therapy which work directly with the stuck emotion to free it up.

Resource Therapy uses a compassionate, strength-based approach to go directly into the feeling state within the body to heal at the source. I am constantly in awe of the different personality parts which arise during this deep process. It is more like a meditative state than traditional cognitive approaches. When in a deeper state, the body and mind truly know what is needed to heal. For persistent, overwhelming emotions Resource Therapy is often more effective than talk therapy.

If you are prepared to work directly with your feelings, you can often experience a more profound shift than talking can provide. You can experience greater comfort and ease within your body and more freedom and choice in your responses. Wouldn’t we all benefit from more of that?

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  1. Dawn

    Having travelled this path with you Amy , I found it gave me the space, to respect, honour, accept and value the presence of my emotions , some of them at times difficult and how to work with them from a positive perspective, and use that as a foundation for growth and healing, rather than be de stabilised by their presence and forever caught in their mist. And it was a safe space, to understand all parts of self without judgement.

    • Amy Islip

      Thanks Dawn. I love that you’ve highlighted, with practice, even difficult emotions can be held with respect, honour and acceptance. These are key components to helping uncomfortable emotions to settle and pass. Your commitment has integrated the safe space into your inner world.


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