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How do you feel your feelings and still think positively?

Discussion in 'General Discussion Subforum' started by veronica73, Apr 18, 2012.

  1. veronica73

    veronica73 Well known member

    How do you feel your feelings and still think positively? What to do when other people don't want you to feel your feelings?

    I've noticed a lot of posts on the forum lately on thinking positively (some of them were probably from me ;) ). I'm kind of conflicted on this...

    I've had anxiety issues most of my life and in 2001 I developed panic disorder (I haven't had any panic attacks since the end of that year). Right around that time I did a lot of work reframing my thoughts, confronting "false beliefs" and learning to think more positively. Overall that really helped me a lot, but I now wonder if I have been using postive thinking as another way to repress certain feelings that seem negative or bad...and I think those feelings were what really drove the whole TMS pain process.

    Part of why journaling was so intense for me was that I found there were all of these feelings that I hadn't been letting myself really feel that were coming to the surface. In the past I might have briefly acknowledged these feelings and then tried to move into more positive thoughts. But when I really sat with them it was pretty heavy.

    Here's an example: I teach meditation and energy healing and a few years ago one of my students committed suicide. I hadn't talked to him in a few years and found out through another student. When I got this phone call I just remember feeling nothing. I went to talk to my roommate about it, hoping that talking with someone would help me process whatever I was feeling. I remember him saying, oh, that's terrible, I'm really sorry...hey, you know what will make you feel better [some random comic strip he thought was funny]. Really? WTF? Can I not even be sad when someone dies? Another layer to this whole situation is that the student who committed suicide also knew a friend of mine at the time. She was understandably having a really hard time with it and was calling me multiple times a day to talk about it. Long story short, she was a very forceful, domineering person (who I'm no longer in contact with) and whenever we talked about this man's death it was all about what she was feeling and I wasn't really able to express or even access any of what I was feeling, even though I had known him a lot longer than she had. This is not to blame her or my roommate or anyone else...I certainly could have let myself feel how much this was bothering me when I was alone. I think I felt like I had to be positive and supportive (of her).

    So even though this student took his own life years ago, I still haven't felt it...or maybe I just don't have that much to feel about it. I wonder if it's too late to find out.
  2. honeybear424

    honeybear424 Well known member

    It's never too late. Have you sat and journaled about this very thing? It sounds like with your post, you are well on your way.

    Seems like people are so quick to distract us from our thoughts of "non feel good" types of things (eg. suicide)...like your roommate changing the subject with the comic strip. It doesn't "feel" good to think about such things. That's probably why TMS is so rampant in our society. A few years ago when my 15 year old nephew committed suicide, I dealt with the same thing. Everyone has their own lives and problems. Guess we just have to process our feelings and emotions on our own, for the most part.
    sewmuch likes this.
  3. veronica73

    veronica73 Well known member

    Thanks, honeybear. I'm very sorry to hear about your nephew.

    I don't think I've journaled on this--that's a good idea. You're right, our society doesn't usually support feeling unpleasant or scary emotions.
  4. AmandaMoo

    AmandaMoo New Member

    Hi guys

    I too am so sorry to hear about your nephew Honeybear. Always a terrible thing, but especially in someone so young.

    I think a lot of people just don't know what to say in terrible situations. They either fear saying the 'wrong' thing or maybe even fear talking about such an emotional event because it can stay with them and they don't know how to deal with it.

    I have a friend who is very blasé about everything. When one of her employees told her he had heart disease but the doctor thought it was treatable she said "oh well shit happens. At least it's not terminal yet. Then you should worry". She has no idea what to say to people in that situation and even laughs off her own health issues.

    She suffers from ulcerative colitis, migraines, diabetes etc. Maybe her unwillingness to admit or discuss the 'bad' things in life is actually causing her health issues...

    When I first told her about my back problems and that I was terrified of surgery she went "oh dear poor you. Hey guess what I've bought a new horse!"

    Maybe some people just don't want to deal with reality

    I agree with the journaling idea - it may help you to get some of the grief out that may still be bottled up in there. Or maybe even write a couple of unsent letters to the people who didn't support you

    quert likes this.
  5. Beach-Girl

    Beach-Girl Well known member

    Suicide is a really hard subject for people - especially those who haven't been through it. I lost an ex-boyfriend to suicide many years ago. I was devastated and it changed my life. I wanted to talk about it to anyone who would listen. I found it difficult because like Honeybear says: it's not a "happy" thing to discuss, and the person who is receiving the information has a tough time with exactly how to react. So they say stupid things, or change the subject. No wonder you didn't "feel" anything. You weren't allowed to.

    Sounds like you were a good ear to your friend though, and the whole thing began to center around your friend's feelings and yours were disregarded. Could have been because you were teaching the class - the place you all had in common - so that others assumed you would know how to guide them. Perhaps your friend wanted you to take on the leadership role to help her feel better. No one gave you a chance to talk. And you sound like perhaps you were a "goodist" in taking all those phone calls from your friend when you weren't heard.

    Suicide is so hard to understand. It doesn't compute sometimes until years later. And since you're working so hard to get through old feelings, I too agree writing about it would help. You can journal, or receive the help here from open ears who want to help each other. But they're your feelings. And they are going to be tough to write about on a forum.

    Honeybear - I too am so sorry about your nephew. A young person who takes this route makes it even harder I think.

    My sister attempted but didn't succeed (that God) a few years ago. She ended up staying with us for over a week. She was so angry with her friends who had wanted her hospitalized for a lengthy period of time. She didn't see how badly she scared them (and us). At the end of her stay she thanked me for letting her hang here for several days. But truth be told, I was scared out of my wits to let her leave. And I told her "I have to trust that you aren't going to do this again. And I am just as worried as all those friends of yours. But I have to let you go."

    Yep. Makes absolutely no sense.

    And you know what? I found at the end of both programs I did - I totally left these traumatic experiences of my ex and my sister out of my writing. So maybe I should do the same.

  6. Beach-Girl

    Beach-Girl Well known member

    Some people have no concept, that words have power.
  7. AmandaMoo

    AmandaMoo New Member

    I know of a couple of people who have lost family members suddenly and always felt they hadn't said the things they wanted to say to them.

    One of them wrote a letter to the person that had passed on, expressing everything they wanted to say and actually took it to the graveside and read it out loud.

    veronica73 likes this.
  8. veronica73

    veronica73 Well known member

    Probably. It sounds like she's also using humor to avoid dealing with things.

    @Beach Girl, I'm so sorry about your ex-boyfriend. It also sounds like caring for your sister was pretty intense--yes journaling or even just sitting with it probably is good for all of us.

    The friend who kept calling was not one of my students. She was someone who was angry at everyone all the time. I have no idea why she was so drawn to me. Anyway, I think I was somehow a little afraid of her (not physically afraid, just emotionally overpowered by her) so I just gave in and let it be all about her.
  9. sewmuch

    sewmuch Member

    Hey Veronica,

    You pose a good question about feeling your feelings yet still thinking positively. I think it is essential to explore, examine, and feel, and ultimately work through and accept your emotions. The structured program and other programs and books have guides and tools to do this, which is particularly helpful as we often do not recognize we have been ignoring, fighting, or repressing those feelings which can come out in all different ways in different people.

    I posted yesterday about the Four Agreements by don Miguel Ruiz. One agreement is don't take things personally - that people act in all kinds of ways because of their sets of beliefs, experiences, emotions. This was hugely powerful for me and allowed me to observe people more objectively and realize that what other people said and did - both good and bad - was not because of me.

    Regarding thinking positively, I think this is a multi-layered thing. There is the put on the happy face right now and keep optimistic thinking positive. There is another thinking positive that things in the long run work out. I think there is also a thinking "positive" to letting things unfold and evolve. That new and exciting things can happen. It was very hard for me to see this, think this or feel this at the beginning, but once I did, it made a world of difference in my tension level. I still worry about the future and work on this daily, but I try to keep this in mind. Lastly, I heard an interview where the person was asked about their career etc - the person was making a comeback - and was asked about their life, observations etc. The person looked at the camera and earnestly said "Be glad you are alive." Sadly the person died very suddenly a couple of years after that. But it made me think, what if today, tomorrow, next week was my last? How do I want to spend it? Anxious, resentful,worried, regretful, angry, and living in the past or future, or joyful, peaceful, and thankful for the present.

    I don't mean to make it sound easy or to diminish in any way people's experiences or emotions. Again, I am still working on it. Everyone has burdens and tribulations and at various points in their lives. When I worked through the program, part of what I also wanted to do was to try to be supportive, kind, and encouraging to others.
    Endless luke, veronica73 and quert like this.
  10. trypp

    trypp Peer Supporter

    I love this question because its something that I really struggle with, too.

    I have certain buttons that make me feel bad. I'm sure that many people do. For me, it's the fact that I have ADD and am tremendously disorganized. It's been a serious issue almost everywhere I've worked and it's something that I really struggle with.

    So suppose I get distracted and miss a very important appointment. Or I put off working on a project until the very last minute and end up pulling an all-nighter, do a bad job and feel really embarassed afterward. Sometimes I can just shake it off, but if something else bad has happened recently (perhaps I've gotten some bad news or made a couple of other embarassing mistakes), it can really get under my skin.

    So, suppose I make a big mistake and I'm feeling pretty bad about it. Most of the time, I can just blow it ooff, but let's suppose that I've made a couple of other big mistakes recently so I'm already feeling bad.

    Is it fundamentally productive to focus on the pain?

    On a rational level, I know that it isn't my fault. It was an honest mistake and I should forgive myself. But my emotions don't want to hear the rational story and I just feel bad.

    I've done enough journaling and therapy to know that the reason I'm so sensitive to this particular button, this particular trigger, is that my mother died when I was young and so I was raised by my father, who tends to be critical by nature. He loves me and wants me to do better and he expressed that by pushing me to overcome my ADD. Not a good combination, really. I'm living the consequences now: I'm incredibly self critical and I've had some pretty bad TMS to prove it. However, reminding myself of this doesn't make the bad feeling go away.

    Sometimes these bad feelings can add up and become a serious problem, as well. At various times I've been diagnosed with depression and anxiety, and I'm pretty conscious of the fact that the more my bad feelings add up, the closer I get to slipping back into a fundamentally unproductive biochemical state where it's even harder to concentrate and get myself to do the work I need to do. As a result, I don't want to make myself miserable if I don't have to.

    This situation has played out many times during my life: I make an innocent yet pretty bad mistake. For whatever reason it makes me feel really really bad. I've done enough reading to know that I should really feel my sadness, but doing so just brings me really really low.

    I know that the sadness is unproductive and irrational, but I still feel it. But what do I do? Do I whip myself up into a frenzy and get really miserable and depressed? I've tried that many times and it hasn't seemed to work particularly well. Like I said, I just get depressed and that starts digging me into an even deeper hole.

    To help deal with these emotions, I've read a lot about mindfulness. But I'm not even totally sure what being "mindful" of the emotion really means. Does it mean trying to "really feel" the emotions and then let them pass? What if they don't want to pass?

    In the end, when this happens, after giving myself a little while to be with the emotions, I now try to just move on. The rational part of my mind knows that this is just a fact of my life and that I have to deal with it. I've already grieved a tremendous amount over my problems (enough to add up to clinical depression) and it hasn't seemed to work at all. After a certain point, I feel better when I just try to pick up the pieces and move on.

    I think I remember reading something in a book by Martin Seligman that supports the conclusion that my own experience seems to be leading me to. I think he said that research has show that ruminating over one's emotions only makes them worse, and that self-talk, etc., seems to lead to better outcomes in scientific studies.

    In general, now I take try to respect and acknowledge my feelings, but I also try to manage them. I acknowledge that I'm feeling bad and try to maintain an awareness of how I'm feeling, but I also try to change the subject and not ruminate. I mean, how much grieving can one do over the simple fact that one has ADD? Sometimes you just need to accept that you goof up and then not wallow in it. At least that's what I think, after more than two decades of struggling with this issue. I am curious for others' feedback, though.

    In the end, I guess that there is a real art and a balance to it. Sometimes the reframing of beliefs and positive thinking can be very helpful. At other times you really need to feel what you are feeling, like with the students' suicide (or any suicide, for that matter).

    I don't want to put words in her mouth, but back to Veronica's initial post, it sounds like, with her panic disorder, the molding of thoughts into a more positive form (what might be called cognitive-behavioral therapy) was helpful. Like in my experience, this is an area where self-talk, reframing, etc., has been scientifically shown to be effective. On the other hand, a suicide is always a big issue and carries real trauma with it. It sounds like the roommate was not at all helpful and that giving you a chance to talk about your feelings would have been much much better.

    So how does one decide when it is time to "really feel" emotions and when it is time to move on? There has to be some way to tell.

    veronica73 likes this.
  11. veronica73

    veronica73 Well known member

    Thanks, everyone for replying. I'll write more tomorrow but *hugs* for you trypp...I think a lot of us here had really tough dads. My own is a great person but pretty much the king of perfectionism!.
  12. veronica73

    veronica73 Well known member

    Trypp--what defines a "mistake"? As far as work goes, societal expectations are not realistic for human beings. In my last job I managed a team of website editors. Each day the team collectively probably handled 100+ tasks. Every so often one of us would make a mistake--inevitably someone would notice. Every so often someone would get mad that the work wasn't perfect, but if we did 99 other things right that day and made one error, was that really so bad?

    But, I hear what you are saying...if you're a perfectionistic type person even a small mistake can be something that makes you feel down.

    I'm really sorry you lost your mom and I can see how having a perfectionistic parent would make this harder on you. My own father can be really compulsive, yet he probably makes more mistakes than I have. I've managed to internalize Dad's voice and carry it around with me everywhere. I'm probably harder on myself than he would actually be.

    Yes, I feel this way too and I think that's why I avoid feeling feelings to their fullest extent. I feel like there has to be some middle ground between stuffing things down and lying in bed crying for hours (or ruminating as you describe it)

    It sounds like you're really, really hard on yourself. Everyone makes mistakes, whether they have ADD or not. Give yourself a hug for me :)

    Yes, there's the rub.

    Certain things like someone being rude to me in a store would send me reeling for hours; I've learned to let those things go. Unfortunately, I think I've started appyling that same level of letting go to things like the student's suicide, issues with friends, etc. And maybe this is also where mindfulness comes in...noticing what's REALLY going on--crying for 2 hours because someone sent me a cranky email at work might be a time when I need to reframe a little and step back. But having someone really let me down or hurt me and then feel like I have to feel all philosophical and happy about it isn't good either.
    Beach-Girl likes this.
  13. veronica73

    veronica73 Well known member

  14. trypp

    trypp Peer Supporter

    Thanks for the support, Veronica. Mostly, the mistakes have to do with mismanaging my time. Suppose, for example, I have 6 hours to complete a project in for work. Most of my colleagues at work will spend about 4 hours on it, whereas I'll do it in the very last 45 minutes. Or, if it's a larger project, I'll start at 10PM the night before and just pull an allnighter, whereas they had been working on it for a week.

    The pain comes in when I compare my project to theirs. It just makes me feel sad because I really wanted nothing more than to put as much work into it as my colleagues and do a better job than them. (I'm pretty smart ;) ... and maybe a little vain about it) But as hard as I try, again and again, I fall into the same exact pattern, doing it in the last 45 minutes. It's like a broken record.

    And I've talked to my doctors and my therapist and they say that I need to forgive myself because this is just the way my brain is. Logically, I know that they are right. Logically, I know that these bad feelings are unproductive, but I still feel them. The emotional membrane is still very raw. So what do I do with the feelings? How do I not let my depression and anxiety come back?

    I mean, don't get me wrong, I get by. I just honestly want to know what to do with the feelings. I really liked your question because in my experience there is a real and genuine tension between wanting to really feel one's feelings (important) and wanting to keep things positive and hopeful (also important).

    How do you balance those two things?

    Hug given. That flet good. ;)

    Exactly! That's what I'm getting at. How do you balance those two things?

    I have a friend who, whenever she gets some bad news, she says, "Ok, I'm going to let myself feel really bad about this for about an hour. Then, I'm going to move on." The aribtrariness of this seems a bit dangerous, but at least she is hitting both sides of the balancing act.

    And I think that you are right about mindfulness. I guess that what we need to do is make sure that we are mindful of what we are feeling so that we can decide whether to reframe our thoughts to a more positive framework or whether it's time to go deep into our emotions and curl up into a fetal position/beat up our pillow.

    Maybe it's time I take up boxing. Somehow the idea of laying into a heavy bag feels like it might help a little.

    I guess that we just need to carefully observe ourselves to figure out what we need. Like, when we get the cranky email, maybe our first instinct should be to journal a little bit or talk to a friend to get it off of our chest, but then, after that is done, we can start reframing (or perhaps mix up the journaling/talking and reframing steps). Then, if we find that the emotion is still sticking around, perhaps that's a sign that we need to journal some more and go a little deeper. Perhaps there is something from our childhood that is making it worse and we need to at least be aware of that. I guess that that is what I meant by mindfulness above - paying attention to our emotions so that we actually know how we are feeling and can respond appropriately.

    Does that make sense?
  15. veronica73

    veronica73 Well known member


    I used to be a world-class procrastinator. I really struggled with it in school and I think I would have a hard time with a job that has the same pace as academia did. I do pretty well with tight deadlines. One thing that helped me is I just do it. I know that sounds overly simple, but I just make my self start working on whatever it is. If I stop to think about it and engage with procrastination I will inevitably get sidelined.

    Do you like what you're doing? I tend to procrastinate more when I'm bored with what I"m doing.

    About the feelings...yeah, this is kind of what I was asking about here. HOW do you feel your feelings? Of course I'm actually feeling some feelings but I think I"m missing something (or being overly perfectionistic again). Your friend's technique of feeling it for an hour is like how I normally operate, and I find for me it doesn't work--I think the feeling just went underground and formed pain instead of sadness or anxiety, etc.

    I think if we lived in a different time or culture feeling feelings might be more accepted or encouraged, so what we're doing here is kind of countercultural. It sounds like you have good support from your doctor & therapist. Hopefully some of your friends are open to listening? In college I had a lot of serious non-TMS health issues and other stress and yet I didn't have the kind of anxiety I have now, or any pain. I think it was because I lived with a really caring group of people and we were able to talk with each other about how we were feeling. I miss that.

    After I posted this I started reading some posts on Abigail Steidley's blog. This one really stood out: http://anamsong.com/pain-relief-stress/want-to-heal-be-a-hot-mess/ I like the grief blanket idea. I think I'll try that sometime.

    Take care and don't be too hard on yourself. I'm sure you're doing just fine. Even if your co-workers spend more time on something they're probably taking breaks or getting distracted part of that time. Be nice to you. Hugs!!!
  16. Beach-Girl

    Beach-Girl Well known member

    Veronica and Trypp:

    I was just reading through your posts. I too am an overly sensitive person, or so says my husband and I would say he's right. I'm a perfectionist (working on it) and try and do the best I can.

    But if feeling the feelings are so hard - why not simply observe them instead? I don't think one needs to go through all the work (and I have) and really "get into the feeling" again. We've been through it once, isn't that enough? Recalling something that has happened in the past, or repeating a "mistake" (trypp you are way too hard on yourself) we've made before can set a domino effect of self flogging. This does no good at all. Remembering or working on something that happened as a child? Well some are important to really explore, but exploring can be observing. After all it's in the past now.

    So - I may being going rouge here with my suggestion, but I believe that part of being mindful is learning to "observe" rather than feeling the emotions again.

    Perhaps this is a good approach. I say this since we all seem to be perfectionists. I'm trying now not to be so hard on myself, and (this is a big one) having a small celebration for the things I accomplish and went right for the day. I never used to give myself credit for a big project but instead would say to myself "OK, what's next?" My husband has pointed this out many times and I realized he's right. I need to say it out loud and proud when I've completed a project, done something that is really tough, or just smoothed over a situation that was an "issue" with someone. But I don't have to emotionally feel it again, I can take what I'm learning and observe my actions and reactions.

    I know it's important to make the connection in our subconscious minds about our past and why it has lead to TMS symptoms. I know I have tailspins that it make for a bad day. But when I can observe and figure out why something is bugging me, I can see it from a new perspective and move on with my day.

    Best of luck to you Trypp and welcome to the forum!!

    And Veronica, I'm going to come back when I have more time and read that link you posted.

  17. veronica73

    veronica73 Well known member

    Saying you're overly sensitive implies there's some correct way of being and you've exceeded it. You're as sensitive as you are and that's just fine.

    I think for me the issue is that in many cases I never felt the feelings the first time around, and as I experience new things I want to be fully feeling my feelings.
    Endless luke likes this.
  18. Beach-Girl

    Beach-Girl Well known member

    Well. For me? Not always. I "stew" about things that I've said or done that may not be perceived as being a "good person." Or someone says something and instead of letting it roll off my back, I turn inward and worry. There is a balance. I need to keep parts of my sensitivity for my work, that IS a good thing. But if I want to let the other stuff go (can't change the way someone thinks of you - you can only change yourself) I would be a happier person. Most of the time I worry, I've misread a situation anyway. So that's what I'm talking about when I say I'm "overly sensitive."

    A word of caution/advice: you can't go back to an incident where you let your feelings slide. It's gone and in the past. One of my biggest "aha" moments in this process is when I said one day - out loud - "this is all in the past. It made me who I am today, but there's nothing I can do to change what happened or how I reacted. I can only work with what is happening now. This moment. And feel what I feel accordingly." And hopefully theses aren't "wasted feelings" - like reliving a situation over and over until I feel what I think I should have at the time.

    This is sounding a little confusing, but I hope you understand my intention. I understand yours and why you want to change this part of yourself, just throwing out some food for thought.

  19. veronica73

    veronica73 Well known member

    Beach Girl, I feel like "sensitive" is just a trait and it's what we do with it that counts. If it is leading you to worry then it's the behavior of worrying that's the problem, not the fact that you are sensitive. (Another great book is the Highly Sensitive Person)

    Yes and no. We can't go back in time, but I think we can recall things from the past, which brings them into the present, and then feel the feelings. I don't feel I need to do that for everything, nor would it even be possible. But for some things I think it would be helpful (for me, maybe not for everyone).
    Beach-Girl likes this.
  20. veronica73

    veronica73 Well known member

    I found out that my student who committed suicide died almost exactly to the day that I made that initial post (that's not what got me thinking of him, but I wonder if at some level I knew that date was coming up).

    A mutual friend is putting together a prayer/meditation group later this week to honor his memory and I think I'll go. I feel like maybe the universe is stepping in to give me a second chance to grieve.

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