The other day I talked about the process I use when dealing with my own abandonment issues. The process goes something like this:
- Understand the trigger
- Become aware of the emotion (feeling)
- Feel the feelings
- Let the negative thoughts come up
- Re-frame negative thoughts/Modify the unhealthy behavior
This process can be used for any difficult emotional or psychological issue that you may be facing. The important thing is to become aware of your triggers, so that you can be prepared for what comes next.
I used to think that there were only two emotions that people could have: happy or sad. Or in my case, it was content or depressed. Anything outside or in-between those two emotions meant that I was crazy. But the reality is that there are a lot of other feelings that exists along the “feelings spectrum.” Some apply to different situations. The important thing is to be able to identify these feelings so that they can be appropriately dealt with.
In one of my blog posts on fear, I talked about my inability to feel feelings.
The concept of feelings and actually feeling them was foreign to me until I began working the 12 steps. I didn’t know that it was okay to feel feelings.
Part of my inability to feel feelings originated from not knowing what feelings I was feeling. (I used the “F” word a lot in that sentence, haha). Basically what would happen is that if someone would ask me my feelings about a certain situation, my response would often be…
I don’t know.
I was confused about my feelings. So instead of trying to get in touch with them, I labeled myself as crazy. When I began working the 12 steps, specifically through the Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA) program, I learned that it was not only okay to feel feelings…but there were many feelings that I actually could be experiencing at a given moment. There was more than just happy or sad or crazy. This was a relief.
But now, how do I do this?
The first thing to do is to learn about the different feelings you can feel, their definitions, and the physiological and psychological responses you may have when you experience them. ACA describes 14 basic feelings in the Adult Children of Alcoholics Book published by the World Service Organization (2006):
- Shame or Ashamed
- Loss or Grief
There are so many more feelings…too many to list. If you want to get into the physiological and psychological meanings of these feelings, I suggest you get into psychotherapy, counseling, or work a recovery program. The basic definitions of these feelings words will not be enough to get you in touch with what you are feeling.
So I was super-excited to learn about all of these feelings! And as you may notice, some of them are actually positive feelings. This means that it’s okay to get in touch with the good and the bad feelings. But how do you do that?
It’s rather simple. Write it down. Specifically, ACA has a “Feelings Sentence” that has helped me in so many situations. When I am getting that crazy feeling, I take some time and write out the following statement:
“I feel ___________ when __________ because _________.”
Refer to your feelings word to fill in the first blank. Here is an example:
I feel [felt] abandoned when my best friend told me she was pregnant because she won’t have much time for me when the new baby is born.
Now here is the challenge. Let that statement be. No judgments. Because I know what you’re thinking…
Michele, you’re really an awful person. A new baby is a blessing, how selfish of you to feel that way, what’s wrong with you?
We will talk about squashing the judgments that come after the feelings later. For now just let it come up and out. It’s the only way to let it go.
***If you want to know more about Adult Children of Alcoholics and Dysfunctional Families (ACA), visit www.adultchildren.org