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Many people struggle with getting in touch with their feelings. If you have a hard time feeling your feelings, it is important to put some time and attention into recognizing them on a regular basis. Getting in touch with your feelings involves:
- Recognizing that you are out of touch with your feelings
- Naming your emotions
- Feeling your emotions
- Communicating your emotions
- Processing and moving through your emotions
By developing your emotional intelligence and ability to feel your emotions, you will become more resilient and better able to communicate and relate to others. Most of us were never taught to pay attention to and study our emotions, so it can feel challenging at first. But over time, you will learn to notice your own patterns and get in touch with your own emotions.
Signs you are out of touch with your emotions (emotional numbness)
A first step is realizing that you are out of touch with our emotions. Here are some key signs you might be disconnected from your feelings:
- You turn to numbing behaviors (drinking, overworking, social media, distractions) in order to feel better
- You avoid conflict and change the subject when things get tough
- You react inappropriately in emotional situations
- You keep yourself busy and struggle to relax
- You have a lot of judgment of others and yourself
- You struggle to build intimate relationships
- You procrastinate or self-sabotage yourself
- You feel disconnected from what you really want
Do you recognize any of these in yourself? Don’t despair! It’s possible to retrain your brain and learn to feel your emotions instead of shutting them off and numbing yourself. This is an iterative process that you will get better at over time. Here are some of the key steps:
How to name your emotions
This first step is to attempt to name your emotions. The more specific you can be about recognizing the nuance of your emotions, the better you can understand yourself. Many of us can recognize feeling “good” or feeling “bad” but struggle to really recognize the varieties in between.
Naming your emotions is important because it forces you to focus and center in on what you are feeling. Many psychologists have studied all of the different types of emotions humans feel on a regular basis. Phillip Shavel and other psychologists categorized emotions into hierarchies with the following six primary emotions:
These emotions can then be categorized further to a secondary and tertiary level.
Throughout your day, take a moment to check in with yourself and try to name the emotion you are feeling. Get as specific as possible. How does your current emotion feel different than other emotions you have felt?
Feel emotions physically in your body
Once you have identified your emotions, the next step is to truly feel your emotions. This can be scary at first, so find space where you can be safe and alone to experiment with getting in touch with your emotions. Here are some exercises to get in touch with your emotions:
- Guided Meditation
- There are many great guided meditations that can walk you through a process to feel you emotions. Here is one option to try to start out:
- Notice your emotions physically
- A great technique is to identify where you are physically feeling your emotions in your body. To do this, you can close your eyes and identify a point in your body where you feel tension or tightness. Focus on how you are feeling and how that shows up in your body.
- Intensify your feelings
- This feels counterintuitive, but by intensifying your feelings you connect with them more deeply which ultimately helps you move through them. Once you have identified your feeling and where it shows up in your body, experiment with ramping it up and feeling it even more intensely. As you start to open this up, you may feel all your emotions come back up again.
Communicating your emotions
Once you have felt your emotions, a healthy next step is to communicate your emotions. This can be a form of self-expression or communication with others. Here are a couple of exercises for communicating your emotions:
Non-Verbal Communication of emotions
Sometimes it is hard to put our emotions into words and other mediums can be great tools for communicating your feelings. Some examples include:
Here is a great playlist for when you feel angry:
This could be as simple as doodling on a piece of paper, or more elaborate involving painting or a multi-disciplinary creation.
Self-Expression through writing
Writing is a fantastic way to communicate your feelings. Some options include:
- Writing a poem
- Thought Downloads
- Writing a letter to your future or past self
- Creating a video journal if you prefer speaking to writing
As you do this, recognize the connection between your thoughts and your emotions.
Communicating your feelings with others
It can be cathartic and reassuring to communicate your emotions with others and it is a valuable skill to express your emotions in healthy ways. A couple of key considerations in this area:
Be thoughtful about who you communicate with – do you trust this person? Do they understand the greater context of your concerns?
Ask for permission before unloading. Let the other person know that you need space to communicate how you are feeling and ask if they are willing to provide that.
At times, we will need to communicate our emotions with others who we are in conflict with. Be thoughtful about this communication – make sure that you are emotionally calm and use “I feel” statements when addressing the situation.
The Value of Emotional Intelligence in your life
As you start to get in touch with your feelings, you will also build your emotional intelligence. This can have further benefits in your life including:
- Better empathy and ability to relate to others
- More emotional resilience
- Strengthened Listening Skills
- More Positive Relationships with Others
Ironically, feeling disconnected from your emotions can be extremely painful. As you work through these steps, take your time and be gentle with yourself. The more you let yourself get in touch with your emotions the easier it gets over time. Be sure to give yourself space and grace and let yourself enjoy the process.
Have you struggled to feel your emotions? What exercises have helped you to get in touch with your feelings?