By Paige Abbott, Psychologist
Here at the HUM office, we are consistently encouraging (and challenging) clients to ‘feel the feelings.’ Lots of barriers, along with myths, come up with this idea, including:
That we can only feel one feeling at a time. This is truly a myth, as at any given time we may be experiencing multiple emotions and feelings and, not only is this okay, it is also a natural part of the human experience! For example, at this very moment I am feeling peaceful, tired, content, annoyed, disturbed, happy, excited, and relieved. That is just in this one second in time!
If a situation did not directly involve us, we have no right to feelings about it. Sometimes being a bystander to an event can be even more impactful than being directly involved in the event, as that sense of powerlessness at witnessing something we have no control over is difficult and uncomfortable. It is just as important to acknowledge, speak, and write about your feelings connected with things you have witnessed or heard about as much as it is to do this with events you were interactive in.
That we cannot hold two ‘competing’ emotions at the same time. Many believe that they cannot possibly feel both happy and sad at the exact same moment, when in reality this happens all the time. Our feelings are generated by so many different events, memories, and situations that it is totally understandable that we can hold a variety of feelings, even ones that seem like they are on different sides of the emotional continuum, at the same time. I can be experiencing an inherent sense of peace, yet feel apprehensive about a specific event coming up in the future. I can be annoyed by my partner chewing their food too loudly, while also feeling love and affection for them. I can also have feelings of self-worth and acceptance, while carrying shame and disliking parts of myself.
We strive to process all feelings so all that is required is to get honest about where you are at. You do not need to make sense of your feelings, see grand patterns or connections with your feelings, or necessarily feel comfortable about all of the feelings, you just need to work with them and remember to learn from them. Feelings are just information!