Tori Olds, a therapist at Deep Eddy Psychotherapy in Austin, TX, teaches us how to give our emotions space and why they are so important.
Emotions Give Us Life and Energy
Emotions are important because they give us life and energy. There’s actually a good reason we evolved to have emotions. Most people think of emotions just like this weird symptom. People will ask, “Why do we have that?” But emotions drive and motivate healthy behaviors.
For instance, sadness. If you had something really hard happen to you, something that’s gonna be a challenge for you to feel something about.
1) That will motivate you to actually do something about it. It means you care. You know you care about it because you say, “Oh, this is not where my life is wanting to be, I don’t like it.” If we were robots, we wouldn’t do anything good for ourselves.
2) It’s sort of a social element. If we are sad and our face falls, and maybe we even have tears, it’s this real, concrete thing. Somebody else can see it and it will stimulate the complementary feeling in them of care and compassion, wanting to come close and hold you. So, they do come close, we tell them what’s going on, and it feels good to do that because it’s good for our survival. We both like it. It’s bonding. It’s like saying, “Okay, now we are side-by-side, ready to face the challenge together,” which is much more adaptive than no one knowing what’s going on and what matters to whom, and somewhat floating away from each other.
Feelings Are About Connection to Ourselves
Feelings can be very much about connection to ourselves, our needs, other people, and other people’s needs. Even anger, which seems sort of anti-social, is also really important because we couldn’t be with other people if we didn’t have a way of asserting our boundaries. Anger gives us energy to be clear and say no when we need to.
Once Anger is Resolved, It Gives Us All This Energy
Certainly when someone’s really being negative—attacking us, perhaps—it gives us energy to literally fight them and defend ourselves physically. I like working with anger a lot—but anger when it’s resolved. When we’ve processed anger, it gives us all this energy to do something that’s positive.
Fueling a Positive Action
So, really, all of our feelings are about fueling a positive action. But, again, it’s where we don’t know how to let ourselves really have the feeling and then move through it that it becomes an issue, because then we become very chronic, or shut down. This is where therapy can be very beneficial. You learn to open back up.
Why do we want to have an awareness of our feelings? What can we learn from having them?
It’s almost like our feelings have us—it’s like we just follow them and we trust the process. Feelings are kinda like waves. They just move through, we have the emotion, whatever feeling it is. If we allow it, and we support it moving through, it’ll take us somewhere that feels better.
That’s why I said that our feelings have us, even though I wanted to take that back because we really want to be grounded and present and not overwhelmed or just drowning in the emotion. That’s not what we want.
Learning the Trust the Process in Therapy
We want to trust the process that feelings have. They’re often pretty short, actually, if we really put our attention on them. Maybe just a few minutes, or an hour. Feelings can just move through in a real natural, nice way, and then take us somewhere that feels better.
Showing Up is an Important Part of the Work
Many people don’t trust that because they’ve never really shown up for the process. However, they begin to see the power of this process really quickly, usually in the first session of working with me. It’s like, “Okay, look, if we really slow down with it, just attend to it, just a little of it, give a little attention and hear it out, it will come and then it softens pretty quickly often.” When we give it some care, some space, people often respond, “Oh my God, I feel so much better!” and they never knew that that was even possible. It’s an important part of the work.
Starting Therapy in Austin, TX
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