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How to not fall down the feelings rabbit hole

  • 3 min read
This year has gotten off to a rocky start. There’ve been a lot of big life changes causing waves of powerful and difficult feelings. These initial emotions can be drowned out by a second wave of intense emotions. These feelings, though, aren’t about the loss, the illness, or about the events themselves. No, these are feelings about my feelings. These are known as meta feelings.
Some meta feelings can be resourceful. For example, we feel proud about how gracefully we accepted an unfavorable result. On the other hand, some meta feelings can be resourceless and cause even more pain than the initial feelings. We can feel intense shame about how sad we feel about something. Or we can be livid with ourselves for how angry we got about a minor altercation.
Resourceless meta feelings are often judgmental, creating this underlying sense that we shouldn’t feel what we’re feeling. We’re being too sensitive, too petty, too cruel, too angry. We think that if we’re hard enough on ourselves, we’ll simply snap out of it. It’s an avoidance strategy that rarely works, often making things worse.
One effective way of reducing resourceless meta feelings is to allow ourself to fully feel whatever is coming up without judgment. Be with the anger. Be with the sadness. Be with the anger about the sadness. For many, especially those who suppress challenging feelings or grew up with angry caregivers, this may feel terrifying and unsafe. Can we risk being this angry? Can we survive being this sad?
Yes, but only when we can remember that we’re not our thoughts and feelings. We are not mad, we are experiencing anger. We are not sad, we are experiencing sadness. As with all feelings, they will pass…as long as we don’t resist them.
Our feelings are like wild animals. When they feel trapped or threatened, they become aggressive. They do what they need to survive. When our meta feelings tell us that our feelings are wrong, too little, too much, that’s what we’re doing: trapping our feelings in place.
Sooner or later though, our feelings will escape and resurface, often in unexpected ways. For example, unexpressed anger has been theorized to lead to clinical depression. Prolonged stress can greatly compromise the immune system, and make us ill. The longer we resist our feelings, the more powerful they become, which makes our ability to express these feelings in productive ways much less likely.
One way we can safely stop resisting our feelings is through writing. Writing about how and/or what we’re feeling while we’re feeling, provides a simple and private way to explore our experience. It allows us to vent, and to articulate what it is that we’re experiencing. It gives us a way to feel it all, then let it all out… on the page. No collateral damage necessary. Simple? Yes. Easy? Not at all.
When we allow our feelings to express themselves through writing, we’re opening the trap and stepping back. It’s the beginning of a process of freeing whatever jagged thing has been tearing us up inside and allowing it to do what it needs to until it tires itself out and moves on.
This may feel like a daunting thing to try, especially if you haven’t done something like this before. When you’re feeling down on yourself for how you’re navigating a challenging time, try answering a simple question on paper: what are you feeling? As long as it’s honest, no answer you could give is wrong.
Here’s a three step written reflection to help you try.
Thank you for taking the time,

1 Response



February 21, 2024

Thank you so much for sharing this, Ryder! I am sorry that this year has gotten off to such a rocky start, but hope that journaling your way through it helps you get to better ground. Count me in as one who tends to stuff all of the feelings down inside. You are so right that they can only stay in there for so long. You basically run out of room or make yourself sick. This is why I have enjoyed my time at BujoU so much. I am trying to do better getting these feelings out of my head and on to paper. Thanks for helping with that!

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