I’m tired of asking my kids “How was your day?” or “How was school?” What I want in these moments is not necessarily to hear about the mundane details of their day. Yes, I want to know those things but what I really want is to make a connection. I want to know them.
So I started asking them “How are you feeling?”
It’s been fascinating to say the least. First of all, they’re very confused. Like they can’t understand what I’m asking them. When they do answer, they almost always tell me how they’re feeling physically rather than how they feel emotionally.
And then when I try other questions to see how they’re feeling emotionally, I usually don’t get very far. Sometimes they can tap into anger or frustration, but for the most part they don’t know how they’re feeling.
And they’re not alone.
I’m really trying to understand my emotions. Lucky for me, I have a LOT of urges for sugar and/or other food that isn’t the best for my body. When that urge comes, I try to figure out what emotion I’m trying to resist/avoid by eating food.
I just got home from an event where I was front and center. I had a lot of preparation to get ready for the event. And then I had to perform in front of people at the event. The moment I got home, I wanted to eat something.
So first, I checked in with my body. Nope, not hungry. If it’s not physical hunger, why do I want to eat? It’s because I’m feeling an emotion. And I’ve learned, SUBCONSCIOUSLY, that when I eat something, it dulls the feeling of that emotion.
You may not have ever consciously thought about this but it’s probably the same for you. Emotions are just vibrations in the body. When your body is empty, the vibrations are more intense. So, when we don’t want to feel something, we subconsciously know that putting things into our body will dull the vibration.
OK, so what is it I’m feeling right now, that is uncomfortable enough that I’m trying to dull the vibration?
Just like my kids, I’m not really sure.
It feels like a really big sigh. Like, yes, I’m done, I made it. What is that emotion? Relief?
My next step is to find it in my body and describe it using only sensation words. Here are a few examples of things I ask myself:
→ Where is it in my body?
→ Is it hot or cold?
→ What color is it?
Even that is hard for me with this emotion. Just like my kids, I’m much better at this with emotions like anger and frustration. They are hot and fast and tight. But this one is eluding me. It feels like every muscle in my body wants to let go and relax.
The emotion I’m feeling, whatever it is, doesn’t feel negative. You’d think I would only want to resist/avoid negative emotions. But this particular emotion seems positive and I still want to eat, to dull the vibration.
I notice I have the same pattern when I come home from work, especially on Friday. The bigger the sigh of relief, the stronger the urge is to eat something.
How are you at identifying your emotions? What are you feeling right now? Do you try to buffer over your emotions like I do? What is your buffer of choice? Food? Alcohol? Drugs? Porn? Facebook? Instagram? Netflix? Shopping?
Why does this matter? Why shouldn’t I just go ahead and eat something?
First of all, buffers have net negative consequences. The food gives me momentary pleasure but I gain weight and/or add to my health issues.
But the bigger reason for me right now… our feelings drive all our actions. Every single thing we do is because of how we feel. Every single thing we don’t do is because of how we feel. So if I want to live an intentional life, to create my life on purpose, I also need to create my feelings on purpose.
And that’s harder to do when I don’t understand how I’m feeling. Or why I find it hard to sit with particular feelings.
So right now, I’m going to sit with relief, or whatever it is. I’m going to try feeling it all the way through. I’m going to figure out exactly what it feels like in my body. I’m going to try to find a better word for it since relief doesn’t feel quite right. I’m going to ponder why I don’t like feeling like this, especially since it doesn’t feel like a negative emotion. I’m going to experience my humanness in this moment, and I’m not going to dull the experience with food.
Are you ready to start feeling your emotions?