It’s true. The spiritual practice of being in the moment fully aware of your surrounding, and self-aware of your feelings and emotions, is not just a nice spiritual practice. It can protect your life.
Denied or blocked feelings create anxiety and stress that can shut down your auto-immune system and leave you vulnerable to illness, high blood pressure, digestive issues, heart problems and strokes.
When we are unaware of how we are feeling it can be dangerous not only for ourselves, but also for the people around us and the relationships we have with those people.
And most people don’t even know that they are blocking their feelings.
Years ago, early in my training to become a psychotherapist, I actually got frustrated one day with one of my supervisory teachers because he kept bringing my work with my clients back to the question “What were they feeling”?
Out of frustration, I impatiently asked him “Why do you keep insisting on talking about my client’s feelings? It’s what they are “doing” that is causing them problems, not their feelings.”
Of course I had just set myself up for his next question….”So how are “you” feeling right now?” he asked blandly.
At the time, I was so emotionally blocked, there was no way I could have paid attention to how my client’s might have been feeling.
Today it’s hard to imagine living without a conscious awareness of the feelings and emotions happening inside myself, those around me, and especially the feelings of my coaching clients as we work together on their goals.
What those humbling early experiences taught me however, was how unaware many of us are regarding our feelings. Until I drew attention to their emotionally aggressive behaviors, even clients who expressed rage in their therapy sessions with me were often unaware of the fact that they were even angry!
Here some practical insights from a “Feeling Model” I used that were helpful for both myself and my clients.
A Feeling Model – How To Avoid The Garden Hose Effect, The Suicidal Turtle, and the Killer Skunk
The following Feeling Model can help you identify and avoid the dangers that result from denying or blocking your feelings and emotions.
Primary Feeling—->Anxiety and Irritability—->Anger (Hot) —->Rage (Cold)
Insight #1 – When your primary feelings or emotions are blocked, it leads to secondary feelings of anxiety and irritability.
Pay attention when you begin to feel anxious, irritable, “yucky”, “antsy”, out of sorts, spacy, or even depressed. These more easily recognized secondary feelings or emotions are often an indication that you are blocking some important feelings.
When you take the time to pay attention these secondary feelings, you can often recognize and name those more subtle primary feelings and emotions that are hiding just below your conscious awareness.
Insight #2 – When these secondary warning feelings are blocked, it leads to anger and the dreaded garden hose effect.
When your primary feelings, and your secondary warning feelings, are allowed to fester and grow below your conscious awareness, it is common to begin feeling anger. The heat of anger can often be the trigger needed to awaken our consciousness that an important feeling or emotion needs to be dealt with or explored.
When our anger is blocked or denied, it’s like cracking open the faucet on a garden hose. Even though the faucet is just dribbling water into the hose, over time, the pressure will start to build. Before long, no matter how hard your thumb is blocking the end of the hose, you will get tired and the water will suddenly come rushing out.
When the water is your “anger”, the impact on the people around you and the relationships you have with them can suffer serious damage. The relationship “cup” that contains all of the words and behaviors of your relationship with them can suddenly be filled with an energy that is harmful to both you and the other person.
When the anger is consciously acknowledged and allowed to dribble out slowly by talking about it, it’s potential to harm you or your relationships is significantly reduced.
Insight #3 – When your anger is denied or blocked, it leads to the dangerous rage of the suicidal turtle or the killer skunk.
When we block the primary feelings, the secondary warning feelings, and the “heat” of anger, we enter into the icy indifference of rage.
If your personality is that of a caretaker, you will take on the character of a turtle. You will quietly swallow the energy of the anger. We call this emotional suicide because the result is almost always stomach or digestive problems, high blood pressure, heart problems, self-anger, self-criticism, passive-aggressive behaviors, joint pain, phobias, eating disorders, anxiety attacks, insomnia, and addictions.
If your personality is that of a skunk, you will begin to “murder” the relationships you have with others by spraying out your rage in the form of bitter humor, sarcasm, acting out, blame, verbal abuse, physical abuse, antagonism, arrogance, judgmentalism, and emotional distancing.
Insight #4 – When we deny or attempt to rid ourselves of our negative feelings, we always end up throwing out all of our feelings…..both the negative and the positive.
Without feelings, your ability to
- find happiness and joy in your life, or
- identify the need to set personal boundaries so-as-to take care of yourself,
will both be very limited.
Insight #5 – The best way to share your negative feelings with others is to focus on their behaviors. Simply say, “when you ( then name the behavior), I feel (then name the feeling).
This technique will avoid the tendency to blame, shame, criticize, reject, assassinate their character, or attack who they “are”.
If this fails to change the behavior that is upsetting you, set a boundary. A boundary is not helpful unless there is a clearly stated consequence attached to it.