Whether we are reacting to a difficult situation, or sitting in the warm glow of contentment, feelings are with us on a constant basis. You may have heard that feelings are neither right nor wrong – they just are, and that they need to be recognized and shared. The vital piece that happens between acknowledging emotions and taking action is called acceptance.
Acceptance is a stage where we come to realize that the feelings we have are normal and OK to have. This can be a very difficult stage, because some of the emotions we experience can be painful or extremely uncomfortable. Perhaps prior instincts were to try to avoid them completely, or stuff them deep down inside. This often leads to them coming out “sideways” or in unhealthy behaviours or patterns. Here are some ways to practice emotional acceptance:
Sit in it. After you have labelled the feeling, take some time to slow down, and focus on what it is you’re feeling. Breath, have a seat, take a walk, meditate. Focus on the emotion.
Where do I feel this physically? If you are experiencing an uncomfortable feeling, do you physically feel it in your hands? Is your heart racing or aching? Tension in your neck? Is your jaw clenched? Eyebrows furrowed? If it is something comfortable that you feel, do you sense a lightness of step? Relaxed breathing? A smile? Are your arms placid? Is your mind at rest?
Practice Self-Compassion – What you are experiencing is normal. Having a feeling – comfortable or uncomfortable – is as human as breathing. Look at the situation, and be your own best friend – giving yourself permission to feel whatever is inside without judgement.
Stay in your shoes! – Often once a feeling is recognized, defences come up. Our mind wants to ruminate over what the cause was, or what the future holds. This is where the anxiety cycle begins, and the feelings get ignored.
After acceptance comes action. Sharing your feelings and thoughts with someone safe is the crucial last step. With greater personal acceptance of feelings, we find gifts to each and healing. The extra time it takes to accept, is the time that your body and mind can gain great wisdom into how to respond into action.
Feelings can also be very difficult to work through on your own. If you are finding difficulty dealing with emotions, talking to a registered counsellor can help.