During many of our experiences, we can learn to suppress our feelings as a coping mechanism in difficult situations.
Why may we choose to ignore our feelings?
There are many reasons why we might choose to ignore our feelings - here are a few examples.
• Being ridiculed for expressing feelings
• Feeling guilty about our feelings
• Pretending our feelings don’t exist
• Someone may have taught us to do this
• Not knowing what to do with difficult feelings
• Ignoring feelings is an accepted norm in some circles
• Ignoring difficult feelings while working at feeling good
• Expressing aggression instead of our softer true feelings
• Not taking the time to notice our feelings
• Relying on others for soothing our feelings
• Being afraid of how someone will react
• Not wanting to be seen as vulnerable
• Labelling feelings as negative
• Conditional self-acceptance
What happens when we ignore our feelings?
When we ignore difficult feelings, they remain stuck inside of us and may lead to developing patterns of reactivity. They tend to resurface in negative or destructive ways. We may feel dissatisfied and become inclined to finding fault and judging. We may focus on relieving anxiety and gaining power by overreacting.
What do we need to do?
We need to take care of our feelings. We need to periodically pause and consider how we are feeling - especially if we tend to have strong feelings. We need to pay attention to what we discover. We need to allow ourselves to feel those feelings and physical sensations, which will allow them to dissipate over time. During the process we lighten our emotional load and become more and more emotionally resilient. We increase our capacity for compassion, peace and harmony.
We can regulate feelings that are lingering by paying attention to them. Paying attention to and accepting our feelings as they occur in each moment is an important step in developing emotional resilience.
Another important point is to not get caught up in auto-generated negative thoughts or labelling feelings as negative. If the process doesn’t work as anticipated or if it becomes overwhelming, it may be useful to ask a professional for assistance in dealing with the natural human vulnerability of feelings that get stuck.
Take a few minutes. Try to recognise the subtle feelings and physical sensations in the current moment. Do I feel tension anywhere? Is my heartbeat fast? Notice the movements as air flows in and out. Whether it is feelings of joy, excitement, sadness, fear or aversion – we need to pay attention to them, non-judgementally, without engaging thoughts about them, and then they naturally dissipate.