Working with Your Thoughts and Notions
When you start listening to your feelings, both the pleasant and unpleasant, you start getting to know yourself better. The first step is to know that unpleasant feelings are a sign that you should move away from a situation that is bad for you, either mentally or physically. The second step is to find the root cause of the unpleasant feelings and examine them a bit more closely.
The third step is to work with specific thoughts and notions, which keep you trapped. Once you start doing that, you can consciously change learned patterns and reactions. That way, you can learn to remove yourself from a situation which is causing you pain. This final part of the blog post about unpleasant feelings is about that third step.
Do You Feel Addicted to Unpleasant Feelings?
Have you ever thought about whether you might be addicted to feeling sad and miserable? That you in a strange way enjoy sliding into a familiar state of pain? Could it be that your pain in some way is a subconscious defense mechanism or an excuse you can tell use to maintain that you are an innocent victim of circumstance?
Most adults who grew up with unsolved and perpetual problems at home are likely to have behavioral and thought patterns that unconsciously recreate the problems of their childhoods. Perhaps they find similar people or circumstances to their childhoods, which they unconsciously use to replay the same dramas year after year. Unconsciously, they hope that they can change the outcome of the drama.
However, it is not until you start changing your own behavior that you will be able to change how the drama unfolds or change the outcome of the drama.
Oftentimes, you will find yourself in the grips of foul moods or unpleasant feelings, which only confirm your negative thoughts and beliefs – that again feed the unpleasant feelings. The longer you are caught in this cycle, the stronger the emotional pattern becomes. Instead, you have to realize that your feelings – however unpleasant – are telling you to act.
Imagine this scenario: Your boyfriend is late. You are waiting for him. Automatically, you start thinking negatively about your boyfriend and his actions. These thoughts trigger certain feelings and reactions.
Perhaps you are not happy about unpredictable events, such as him being late. Without being completely aware of what is happening inside you, your thoughts take over: He doesn’t care about me. He doesn’t keep his promises. I am worthless.
Once you start thinking such thoughts about your boyfriend and his actions, it is no wonder that you start feeling uneasy. Without being aware, you start interpreting the situation. The interpretations are often negative and will trigger negative emotions inside you. Automatically, they overwhelm you and leave you stranded.
Or imagine this scenario: All of a sudden, you start feeling uneasy, sad and miserable, but you do not understand why. Perhaps the feelings occur during breakfast. Without thinking or reflecting, you let them seep into your mind and your body. Sometimes they dominate your day or even entire week. Perhaps you think: This will never pass. I am always in a bad mood. I am always sad and depressed.
None of these thoughts are true or correct. They are remnants of your upbringing in a family shaped by addiction.
Your body is perfectly capable of telling you when it hurts, for instance if you place your hand on a hot stove. You move your hand immediately – and automatically. When you experience unpleasant feelings that is exactly what your mind is telling you to do as well – to move. However, because you have spent years suppressing these feelings, it is hard for you to move.
If you recognize some of the causes of your suffering, a conscious decision on your part to change things will have a significant effect on your life. You have to let go of these emotions. There is no need for you to feel miserable on a daily basis. Your tolerance for mental discomfort is extremely high. You can lower that tolerance. You can reintegrate and retrain your automatic reaction so that you are able to notice and react to unpleasant feelings.
Changing Your Reactions
Going back to the example of your boyfriend showing up late, the first thing you can do is to breathe deeply and slowly. Even though you feel affected and wounded, it is important not to start blaming or yelling at him. Instead, try to be aware of your thoughts, of how you interpret of the situation and how your body feels.
Then try to be open and curious about the cause his delay. Perhaps he is not disrespectful or ignoring you. Perhaps he actually cares about you. Perhaps your interpretation of the situation was false. Perhaps he was late because of delays on the subway or he had a flat tire. Perhaps his boss had insisted on talking with him just as he was about to leave work.
You are allowed to ask what happened, why he was delayed. You are also allowed to tell him that it is important to you that he makes an effort to show up on time. That delays trigger feelings of neglect in you. You are allowed to say that you would like to know if he is late for an appointment.
In the case of feeling uneasy, sad and miserable without knowing why, perhaps the root cause is that you use an inordinate amount of energy each day just surviving. Throughout your childhood and youth, you have been taught how important it is maintain a façade. You were the one to clean up the mess and keep the family running. No wonder you are tired and exhausted – and feel sad and drained.
Taking Better Care of Yourself
You have to start doing good things for yourself every day, even if it is just small things. It takes practice. Wake up a bit earlier and do a heart meditation (in Danish). Listen to an affirmation (in Danish). Chose to meditate to start the day in a calm manner. Do something that gives you energy and makes you feel good about yourself. Each day is a fresh start. If you start your morning worrying and fretting, you are very likely to continue being in an anxious or bad mood. Do something new and different.
You have to switch to “a higher level of energy and vitality” than the one you find yourself in when you are merely surviving.
Understand that you are in a kind of trance when you are merely surviving and that it wears out your resources. You have to protect yourself, safeguard your own body and mind. You have to start looking after yourself both physically and mentally. You have to aim for a meaningful life for yourself – not for the sake of others, but for your own sake.
Taking Full Responsibility for Yourself
Once you start living your life, rather than merely surviving, you have to realize that you need to make necessary changes. They are:
- Taking full responsibility for yourself
- Setting targets you want to reach daily – for instance meditating for 15 minutes, going for a walk, any kind of break that will give you joy and energy
- Thinking about how you want to be in this world
- Deciding what kind of values you want to live by (for instance, being more honest; saying no when you really don’t feel like saying yes; creating limits; giving yourself permission to be happy when you in fact are happy, even if others around you are not)
- Think about what goals you would like to reach – in your personal life, your professional life, socially, physically or mentally
Aim high. Be ambitious on your own behalf.
Picture yourself strong and grounded. Imagine yourself free, completely free.