How to Start Treating Your Feelings as Feedback
May 24, 2019
"Your feelings aren't a problem you're supposed to ignore or fix. They're your feedback about how you're doing or what you need in life." – Allyson Dinneen
Feelings are a tricky subject—we all have them, and they’re all valid. They help us to connect with others, take action, make decisions, survive danger, and so on.
But what happens when we let them get the best of us? When we let our feelings dictate our reality in a way that may not fit the magnitude of the situation?
Then, we start doing what experts call “emotional reasoning.”
For example: If you’re feeling sad, you then begin to think that your life will always be sad. Or, if you feel you’ll fail at something, you don’t even try it in the first place.
As the “emotional friend,” I’ve definitely been there. My feelings get heightened in an instant, leading me to react or perceive my life in a way that may not always be the most beneficial. I’m not alone in doing this.
“We can get into some negative thought processes as a result of our emotions,” LaToya Gaines, Psy.D., tells Shine. “But it’s important to make the distinction that thoughts and feelings are separate—although they influence each other greatly.”
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Gaines says it’s all about building awareness and noticing the role feelings play in our lives. “Feelings are information and provide feedback about what is happening in our environment at any given time,” she says. “It is important to be aware of them, acknowledge them, and accept them for what they are.”
“Feelings are information and provide feedback about what is happening in our environment at any given time. It is important to be aware of them, acknowledge them, and accept them for what they are.”-LaToya Gaines, Psy.D.
By becoming clearer on the role of our feelings, we can begin to build emotional intelligence, which some people call EQ. EQ helps us identify the root or emotional basis of our feelings—and when we have that clarity, we can make a decision on how to react.
“When we pay attention to our emotions, we have greater flexibility in how we act on them,” Gaines says. “An important point to consider is, does the intensity of the emotion match the situation? If not, we may be reacting to something on a deeper level not just what is going on at the present moment. What is happening at the moment may just be a trigger.”
In these instances, it’s important to identify the trigger so you can make a sound decision. Gaines suggests you ask yourself these three questions:
1. What event triggered my emotion?
2. What assumptions am I making about this event?
3. Does my emotion and its intensity match the facts of the situation? Or, does it just match my assumptions of the situation?
Once you’ve asked yourself these questions, it’ll help you step outside of yourself and look at the situation more wholly before reacting. It might not feel easy at first (I know it didn’t for me) but flexing your EQ is a practice. The good news: The more you mindfully meet your feelings head-on, the greater sense of control you’ll start to feel in your life.
And if you’re like me and the physical sensations that connect with your feelings become overwhelming, Gaines recommends taking a moment with your breath in order to find the space to ask yourself these questions.
“It’s important to practice connecting back to your breathing and using mindfulness skills to help regulate,” she says. She recommends imagining the emotion floating away from your body, as if it was an untethered balloon, so you can create space to get curious about it.
Your feelings are feedback—but ultimately, you get to decide if the feedback is valid or unnecessary. Flex your EQ, and start feeling more comfortable with your feels.
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