This is the official thread for Section 3.7 of the TMS Recovery Program donated by Alan Gordon of the Pain Psychology Center (PPC). This section is entitled "Feel Your Feelings." Neither Alan nor the PPC necessarily endorses this thread or any of the viewpoints presented in it. Please keep these official threads on topic and put your best thoughts down, as these threads will be read by many people. All posts in this thread should all relate to section 3.7 of the TMS Recovery Program: http://www.tmswiki.org/ppd/TMS_Recovery_Program#Feel_Your_Feelings In section 3.7, Alan writes the following: Feel Your Feelings One of the biggest barriers that people face in attempting to feel their feelings is that they often go through the wrong channel. Perhaps a symptom is coming on, and you ask yourself, “Okay, what am I feeling now?” And you try to figure it out logically. “Let’s see, I had to work late yesterday which I wasn’t happy about. And my boss didn’t even thank me, and I know that my parents never paid me much attention so I’m particularly sensitive to feeling ignored. So my needs weren’t acknowledged and I was made to feel invisible…I must be angry!” This is an interesting thought process, but doesn’t do much to help you. We develop symptoms because we’re not feeling our feelings, not because we don’t know what our feelings are. Using logic to try and get to your feelings is like going to a Chinese restaurant and ordering in Spanish. You’re using the wrong language. Recent research has shown that emotions first manifest as physical sensations. One of the things you may have noticed from the past three clips is that I would ask, “What does this emotion feel like in your body?” This is the language of emotions. Sadness can feel like a heaviness in your stomach or chest and perhaps a softness around the eyes. Anger can feel like a hot, powerful feeling in the stomach that’s rising up through the chest and head. (These are simply examples as there isn’t a right way to feel feelings. Everyone is different.) When someone tells me they’re sad or angry or happy or guilty, I’ll often ask, “How do you know?” Bringing your attention to the sensations in your body is a great way to practice connecting with your emotions. The topic of this section by Alan Gordon can be an elusive one and also one that can easily be misunderstood. It was for me, until I gave it some serious thought. Many people have asked how they associate their anger, anxiety, depression, sadness or other emotion with their feelings. The feelings can be different for many people. I want to focus on just one emotion – anger – and the feelings it gives me. I can get easily angered, and it comes out in my feelings by me acting a lot like Donald Duck. I go into a Donald rage and feel the anger in my head as a headache and in my stomach as a tight feeling. I had never tried to understand my Donald Duck feelings so I did a Google search and found “What Your Anger May Be Hiding” by Leon Seltzer, a psychologist. He calls anger “The most seductive and addictive of human emotions.” Dr. John Sarno says in Healing Back Pain that repressed emotions such as anger can develop over the years into rage, and rage is one of the most common reasons for TMS pain. Seltzer, who has conducted more than a hundred workshops on anger management over the past twenty years, says, “If anger helps you feel in control, no wonder you can’t control your anger!” Anger has increased in modern society for many reasons and has manifested itself in violence such as road rage, drive-by shootings, school shootings by adults and students, as well as in family and other relationship arguments. Seltzer shares an example of the common situation when, while driving, another motorist cuts his car in front of ours. When he asks how that felt, the person who had been cut off says they feel angry. Their anger surfaces in their emotions as fear, because the situation could have caused an accident. Seltzer goes deeper, saying that most angry people he has worked with have “suffered from significant self-image deficits.” Many have been very successful in their careers but far less so in their relationships, where anger triggers abound. Many say they do not feel they are good enough. The “goodist” monster raises its head here, wanting to please and be liked by everyone. To come back to my Donald Duck personality, Seltzer says that recognizing the more comic side of our anger could be invaluable. In the Walt Disney cartoons, Donald Duck is often easily provoked into fits of temper. His three mischievous young nephews, Huey, Dewey, and Louie, try his patience and he explodes into squawking tantrums. In the cartoons, the angrier Donald gets, the more impossible it is to take him seriously. I get control of my Donald Duck anger by laughing at myself for having “lost it.” It’s a simple yet very effective solution for me. Seltzer proposes what he calls the “Donald Duck Solution” which he says many of his patients have found to be effective in calming their anger. It is applied when someone goes into a tantrum or rage at you, perhaps irrationally screaming at you. Seltzer suggests distancing yourself visually from the rageful person. Recognize them as “losing it” in a Donald Duck rage and it helps you to understand or tolerate it better. By employing this cartoonist “distancing act,” you can reduce the other person’s former power to lose your cool so you can maintain your emotional equilibrium. I shared an apartment for seven years with a friend and we got along fine and never even had an argument. But we both lived by a rule he suggested: we would each respect the other’s right to be irrational. Accepting that, neither of us acted irrationally around the other. Psychologist Christine Inge says that “Feeling your feelings is a single step in becoming emotionally fluent. Learning what these signals mean and applying that wisdom comes afterwards. Kind of like when you learn a foreign language. You don’t jump right into ready books and speaking like a local. You learn to say hello, first. Feeling your feelings is like learning to say hello.” Inge suggests we follow these steps in feeling our feelings: Sit and focus your attention on your body. Notice the sensations that are happening in your body by slowly scanning from the tips of your toes all the way up to the crown of your head. As you scan, ask yourself questions like: Where is this feeling in my body? What does a body part making me give attention to it feel like? What are the sensations I am feeling in that body part? As you scan, it can be very helpful to breathe as you notice the sensations. Now, stay with the feeling in your body. If you notice that you move back into your mind, just notice that and bring your attention back into your body. As you breathe and stay with it, the feeling will start to shift and move, and even go away completely. Just notice whatever is happening. Stay with your emotional experience as long as feels necessary for you. If the feeling stays in your body longer than a couple of minutes, this is most often an indicator that you are in your mind, not your body. If you are very new to this process and are just learning how to get back into your body, you may want to set a timer for this exercise. Just a minute or two is a good starting point. Doing so will help you to begin to build your “I really can feel my feelings without dying” evidence file. As you build your evidence file, you will be able to sit with your feelings longer and longer.