What does it mean to "feel your feelings"?


If you’ve ever been told by someone “you don’t feel your feelings” or “you need to work on feeling your feelings”, it can be totally annoying if you have no clue what they’re talking about.

You might be thinking, how can someone NOT feel their feelings? Don’t they just happen?

Yes, they do, and in that sense they are unavoidable.

But there are lots of ways to avoid actually feeling them.

Our thoughts can change our feelings.

So when a painful feeling comes up, we can play mental tricks to skirt around that pain.

Each time we use our minds to ease the pain of our emotions, we are not "feeling our feelings".

If you want to feel your feelings, simply stop doing that :)

Here are 9 common mental tricks to watch out for.

1. Brushing it off: “Eh, it’s not a big deal.”

Denying that something hurt is one of the most straightforward ways to avoid pain. It’s like sticking your head in the sand and saying “That didn’t happen.” “I didn’t feel that.”

2. Rationalizing: “That shouldn’t hurt.”

Those pesky irrational feelings throw a wrench into your clean logic about the kind of person you are. If the pain doesn’t make sense, you can pretend it doesn’t hurt.

3. Armoring up: “Never again.”

Becoming vigilant, steely and rigid is an attempt to prevent future pain. Whenever you convert pain into certainty and resolve, you gain the illusion of control.

4. Regret: “If only...”

As long as you focus your attention on the past and keep imagining an ideal outcome, you don’t have to bear the pain of the current, non-ideal reality.

5. Self blame: “It’s all my fault.”

As long as you take responsibility for everything, you can feel a sense of control over what happened. That hurts less than the pain of helplessness and impermanence.

6. Justifying: “I was right.”

You won the argument, but lost the relationship. Instead of feeling the pain of loss, you find comfort in being in the right. Even better if you can get others to back you up.

7. Cynicism: “I knew it.”

When you think the worst of everything, at least you can avoid the pain of disappointment.

8. Distraction: “Look, a squirrel!”

Gambling, sex, television, Instagram, video games, workaholism, focusing on someone else’s problems and more. Lots of activities can be used to divert your attention away from your present reality and the feelings happening there.

9. Numbing: “I don’t want to feel.”

Drinking, drugs, eating, sleeping. Hey, if you don’t have feelings, you can’t feel pain.

Do you do some of these? Don’t judge yourself.

Pain sucks. And life is full of it.

So what if you use some of these coping strategies to get through your day? We’re all guilty of them.

Don’t fool yourself, though.

None of these work forever. And they all come with a cost.

And over time, they can become their own source of pain.

So use them. But don’t forget you’re using them.

And keep deciding whether or not they’re still worth it.



Eddie Shieh, PCC, MFA