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Bad feeling, good companion - how we can use unpleasant feelings for ourselves
Anger, sadness, disgust, fear, disappointment, jealousy, frustration - there is probably no one who likes these feelings. On the contrary: they are so uncomfortable for us that we try to avoid them or get rid of them as quickly as possible.
But what makes feelings uncomfortable and what do we need them for? Can you also use negative feelings in a targeted manner and benefit from them? We would like to introduce you to 5 steps how to turn your unpleasant feelings into good companions.
Why are there unpleasant feelings like fear & Co?
For some of us, uncomfortable feelings like fear, anger, disgust, jealousy and so on are a bit annoying, but not really bad. However, when these feelings recur frequently, they are a daily challenge that can really torment us.
Feelings are the inner signals of our body that point us to something or want to tell us something. Feelings such as fear, anger, disgust or even jealousy fulfill specific functions that we can learn to “listen” to.
When we are in physical pain, we know how to pay attention to it and make a difference. For example, if our arm fell asleep at night, we move it carefully and then lie down differently. For other complaints we go to the doctor sooner or later if they don't subside or keep coming back.
So the pain indicates to us that we should pay attention to something and, if possible, change it. Our feelings have a very similar function: They are indicators of our psyche and, like a navigation system, show us that we should change something.
However, sometimes we find it difficult to identify the function of a feeling. Especially when the feelings keep coming back and we can hardly seem to get rid of them - as is the case with persistent anxiety or depression.
But we can learn to use our unpleasant feelings as helpers and informants for changes in our lives.
1How to welcome your feelings
Internalize the thought that your uncomfortable feelings will not harm you, but rather want to guide you on the right path. Trust them as a kind of gut feeling, because your body usually knows what is good for you and what is not. Your feelings don't want to harm you - they point you to something and can initiate positive changes.
Remember three situations in which you initially had unpleasant feelings, but which ultimately did something good:
- Maybe you were angry enough to end a difficult relationship and now you are better.
- Or you were very sad about a loss and were ultimately able to come to terms with it through this sadness.
- Maybe there was so much frustration in your job that you ended up looking for a better alternative and got it.
So, discover the positive side of your uncomfortable feelings so that you can welcome them more easily. They have served you well. However, if you actively defend yourself against your feelings, you spend your energy and even increase the unpleasant sensation of the feeling.
2What does the feeling want to tell you?
Hardly any of us like to experience these uncomfortable feelings. So we tend to ignore them for as long as possible. Often we do this on the assumption that they will then go away. Sometimes that is even the case. But if the feeling has an important "message" for you, it will keep coming back.
But how do you know what your feelings are trying to tell you? Again, remind yourself the best way to deal with physical pain: you give your body, the pain and its possible cause your full attention. Try doing the same thing with your feelings.
To do this, ask yourself the following questions:
- What is the feeling?
- Does it have something to do with the situation I am in or with the people around me?
- What could be the cause and how can I fix it?
- What do I need for that?
3Trust in your experience
As soon as you begin to pay your curious observant attention to your feelings, they will become a good advisor to you and will gradually change and soften. You can use them to find out what you can change to alleviate the cause of your pain.
Find out which of the possible options feel best for you right now. When you are sad, you could visit someone you love. When you're angry, you go to the gym and exercise to keep yourself energized. If you are afraid, you face it by taking small steps.
Let your feelings guide you gently. Be vigilant, however: If you are afraid or very sad, for example, the impulse is natural that you want to withdraw and be alone. Rest and being alone can be very healing and actually exactly what is good for you at the moment. Remember, however, if this makes your uncomfortable feelings worse rather than lessening, then take a change of direction and try other options.
If you are actually permanently stuck in unpleasant feelings and none of the options for changing the sensations help, it is possible that the feeling is its original warning or. Has lost the hint function. In this case, it is advisable to seek outside support and describe this exact state. Here, too, trust your feeling about who you want to talk to about what - this can be your partner, a friend, relative or even a therapist.
4 Accept the existence of uncomfortable feelings
Often adults react to sad or desperate children with "It's not that bad!" Or "It doesn't hurt that much!" We hope that this will calm and comfort the child. As adults we know - the shock or pain from falling will pass, the sadness about the broken toy will soon be gone.
At the same time we suggest to the child: “What I'm feeling right now doesn't seem to be right. Not applicable, or not even wanted. I shouldn't feel like that now, that's not right and mustn't be like that. "
And that's how we learned it too. We believe that there shouldn't be an uncomfortable feeling. So we fight against our feelings. And that's a big part of what makes them so particularly uncomfortable and stubbornly keeps them coming back more intensely.
If we see through this mechanism, we can succeed in not fighting unnecessarily against our feelings. Feelings point the way. Just as joy signals to you that you like the moment, sadness shows you that something is very close to you. Every feeling has a right to exist. So we can accept to a certain extent that unpleasant feelings will accompany us throughout our lives. This means that we can turn to them again and again and let them be there as long as they are there. This relieves us of the thought of constantly having to feel good or different from how we feel.
Unpleasant feelings are part of our life. They come and go, and fulfill our duty as signal givers whenever we come into situations or circumstances in which we are allowed to take a close look at what is good for us and what we are allowed to change.
The four steps above serve as a guide on how to deal with these unpleasant feelings and when they threaten to get out of hand. But regardless of whether you use effective distraction strategies in the short term or change something in the long term in how you deal with unpleasant feelings - one thing is certain: they will keep coming back. No matter what you do, you will not be able to prevent it.
Therefore, practice equanimity and relax knowing that the feelings such as sadness, anger, disgust, contempt, fear may come again and again, but also go again and again. And the more relaxed you can deal with it, the less spectacular your guest performance will be.
Change or acceptance?
Perhaps you have heard the following sentence before: I want the calmness to accept things that I cannot change, the courage to change things that I can change and the wisdom to distinguish one from the other.
When dealing with unpleasant feelings, it is very helpful to take these feelings seriously, to pay attention to them and, where possible, to change our behavior accordingly. In some cases, however, we are also confronted with problems for which we have no solution at the moment, such as the loss of a loved one. In this case, we are relieved if we learn to accept the difficult feelings that accompany them instead of constantly fighting against them.
Making the distinction between when to take action and when to accept the feeling is a lifelong task. Above all, it is important to have the courage to try something out and trust your own assessment.
If you want to find out more about this topic, but also about other questions about mental health, become part of our community HelloBetter Strong Together. There you will find lots of suggestions and tips. The community is of course looked after by psychologists.
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