A few readers said they don’t know what their truth is. They weren’t connected to their feelings and didn’t know why they needed to be. What then?
This is the second of a two-part series on the Why and How of knowing your feelings — your truth.
Both the Why and How of knowing, feeling, and speaking your truth are difficult for most people. There are a variety of reasons why: You may have been trained to suppress your strong emotions. There are certain, sometimes unspoken, societal and organizational rules against expressing them. You may have never learned the language that helps you describe your emotions or those physical sensations.
The Physical Sensations
There are a few steps you can take to connect with your feelings. As I said in part one, don’t dismiss this with the thought that you are a practical and logical person. You may be, but you’re fooling yourself if you think that logic and practicality aren’t based on your feelings. Your feelings emanate from your physical sensations. Your feeling state is a physical experience happening in your body. When you bring your attention to the location in your body where you are experiencing a feeling, you can deepen your emotional understanding of it and connection to it.
How do you go about getting in touch with those elusive feelings? That’s why you’re here, isn’t it? To find out! Let’s learn How.
First, see if there’s a physical sensation as a result of an interaction or thought. Where is it? Sit with that it. Give it time to make itself known. As you get comfortable with the awareness, look for words to describe it. You’re checking in to see if you can identify a feeling or emotion associated with the sensation.
Getting in touch with the source of the emotion — the physical sensation — is the first step. The second step is integrating emotion with that sense. Next is building your vocabulary so you can be more accurate and precise in expressing that impression of your emotions.
Integrate the Emotion
Did you know that emotions don’t last for more than 90 seconds? Joan Rosenberg talks about that in her book, 90 Seconds to the Life You Love. I point that out because you may not be comfortable with the feeling or emotion that’s coming up for you. Don’t give in to the urge to cut off the emotion, or bury it. Just give it 90 seconds. It’ll pass quickly. Be careful to not let your defense mechanisms work to hide your emotions from your consciousness. When you connect the sensation to the emotion, sit with it. Feel them integrate. Now, can you put words to the feeling or emotion?
Understand that your words and experiences/emotions reside in different hemispheres, so the challenge comes in getting them together. You connect them through voicing your experiences and emotions. Sometimes that’s most easily done through journaling. Sometimes it’s done by talking to another person. Sometimes you get in touch with your feelings by talking to yourself.
Journaling is a valuable way to put words to feelings. Get quiet and comfortable, and then connect to your body’s sensations before you start writing. If you have a topic you want to explore, that’s a good place to start with your writing. I don’t mean typing, I mean writing — by hand. There’s something about the physical act of writing that helps connect the two hemispheres of your brain, letting the words, experiences, and emotions bridge the gap and integrate, and flow through your arm to your hand to the paper.
The more you journal the more integrated your experiences, emotions, and words will become. When you are comfortable with the connection and the words, share your words with a trusted someone, someone who will support your in your growth. With enough practice, you’ll be able to start sharing your feelings — your truth — with others. Slowly you’ll find yourself knowing your truth and gain comfort in sharing it with others faster and faster. That knowing may become almost instantaneous.
Build Your Vocabulary
There are two parts to building your vocabulary. One part is to consider the intensity of the sensation or emotion. The other part is to become familiar with the various words you can use and build on that list, incorporating the intensity with the words you use.
Let’s explore a few examples, playing with the sensation and the intensity:
- annoyed, angry, furious
- tickled, happy, elated
- edgy, nervous, hysterical
- nervous, excited, exhilarated (nervous can go a couple of different directions, so exploring your sensation carefully can help you find the right word)
- dismayed, shocked, horrified.
Now, it’s your turn. Ask friends and family, pay attention to the words you hear others use, and even ask the dictionary and thesaurus — printed or online.
As your vocabulary grows, you’ll be able to journal your feelings and express yourself in a safe environment. James Pennebaker, a social psychologist and professor at the University of Texas in Austin, has done 40 years of research about the connection between writing and emotional processing. He has discovered that people who write about emotionally charged experiences have a noticeable increase in their physical and mental well-being. They are more resilient because of their ability to process their emotions through writing.
A Real-Life Example
Let me share a personal example of how journaling helps come to know and process feelings. My husband and I are volunteer medics. He is a professional writer. After particularly stressful calls, he often writes out his experiences and thoughts as a way of processing his emotions. Many medics “burn out” from stress after stress, but this helps my husband bounce back. That makes him more resilient.
I have a different way of processing the experiences and thoughts, one that’s just as effective. I sit with my physical sensations. I get comfortable with them. Then, I attach words to those sensations and talk about the experience and my feelings. That’s makes me more resilient. I also used that technique with the rough death scenes I investigated, back in the days when I was Deputy Coroner.
How do you learn to know your truth? Connect with your physical sensation. Integrate emotion with that sensation. Build your emotion vocabulary.
When you learn to know your truth — your feelings — you will be resilient, have a higher EQ, and make better decisions. Being a more integrated, whole, and resilient person will make for a more satisfying and joyful life.
Here’s the associated video with more thoughts on Knowing Your Truth — The How
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