Lisa, like many of us, grew up with parents who completely avoided their feelings, and she was repeatedly discouraged from feeling her feelings. Her parents never role modeled managing their own emotions, so Lisa never learned how to take responsibility for her emotions. As a result, she was very afraid to feel her feelings, believing that they would overwhelm her.
"I just can't handle my feelings," she said in one of our phone sessions. "They are too intense for me. So I buy things instead. And it's getting to be a huge problem as I'm getting into major debt, which is causing me a lot of anxiety. And the more anxious I feel, the more I spend. I don't know how to get out of this vicious cycle. From reading your articles on the Inner Bonding site, I realize that I'm deeply addicted to spending. And to food and to anger. I use all of these when intense feelings come up that I know I can't handle."
"Lisa, do you know what the feelings are that you are avoiding?"
"No. I've tried to figure that out and I can't seem to get to it."
As we explored further, it became evident that Lisa was avoiding the most difficult feelings to feel:
- Helplessness over others and situations
Lisa discovered that she got angry whenever she felt helpless over others and situations, and she would eat and spend when she felt the loneliness that comes from not having others to connect with or not being able to connect with the people she was with. When others were mean to her or others, her heart hurt.
"Yes, those are the feelings that I can't handle. I think I feel lonely on and off throughout a day. "
"Lisa, I also feel it on and off throughout a day. Probably most people do but are not aware of it. This is a core-Self feeling - a feeling from life, as opposed to the wounded-self feelings that we create by our own thoughts and actions. We have so many addictive ways of avoiding our feelings, that most people have no idea that this is what they are feeling and what they are avoiding feeling with their addictions."
"What am I supposed to do when I feel these feelings?"
There is a very simple way of managing these core-Self emotions:
- You need to be conscious of what you are feeling. You need to practice getting out of your head and getting present in your body. Staying in your head is another addictive way of avoiding feelings.
- Once you are aware of the feeling, you need to acknowledge it by naming it, simply saying, preferably out loud, "I'm feeling lonely right now," or "My heart hurts right now," or "Right now, I'm feeling that awful feeling of helplessness over another or over an outcome."
- Move into compassion for the feeling. Imagine holding your inner child - being present with him or her with deep compassion for the feeling. Sit with the feeling for a few minutes, breathing deeply into the feeling, being fully present with compassion.
- Ask God/Spirit/Higher Power to take the feeling from you and replace it with acceptance and peace. Imagine the feeling flowing out of your body and going into Spirit, while the feelings of peace and acceptance are flowing in.
All of this takes less than 5 minutes. When wounded-self feelings come up, practice the 6 Steps of Inner Bonding. When core Self feelings come up, this is the loving way of managing them.