a Simple work sheet ON EMOTIONAL REACTIONS

For some people, these are common reactions to waking up in the morning:

frustration, anxiety, anger, resignation, fear, doubt, denial, grief, sense of betrayal, dissociation, nervousness, concern, panic, distrust, sorrow, suffering, depression, lack of confidence, distrust

For most of us, these are typical reactions to difficulties in life, to illness, and to pain.

Some internal feelings, or sensations, evoked by your situation, your external circumstances:

pain, disruption, intrusion, aches, frustration, distraction, itching, feeling unnerved, being overwhelmed, feeling stuck forever, fright, weakness, terror, shame, feeling engulfed, feeling stupefied, going numb

Does any of this sound familiar? Too familiar?

What are you saying to yourself about your feelings?

What are you saying (if anything) to others about your feelings?

How are your feelings and expression (or non-expression) of them affecting YOU and YOUR relationships?  

Are you actually experiencing your feelings as they happen?

How are your feelings changing your daily life?

What do you do when you begin to feel something you don’t like?

analyze it, chew it over and over and burp it back up again, take a drink, smoke,   eat, take a walk, stuff it away

How are your actions (or inactions) changing what you do, say, think, or feel?

During your life, when challenging things happen, you may feel:                                 

depressed, frightened, insignificant, ashamed, grandiose, disconnected, unreal, guilty, helpless, hopeless, excited, fearful, anxious, unsettled, hurt, sore, tired, aching, selfish, sleepy, manic, disinterested, out-of-touch, martyred, vindicated, dismayed, lost, angry, hateful, put-upon, resigned, distrustful, powerless, confused, paralyzed, worn out, pissed off, icky, stupid, unworthy, numb

Does anyone notice how you feel? How  can you tell?

Do you notice how you feel? Do you notice how they feel?

Are you:

anticipating, telling yourself today will be bad, telling yourself you can figure out a way to cope, anxious about how you will feel, nervous about doing anything because the outcome might be out of your control, holding back because you might hurt or get hurt, not communicating because "no one understands," finding ways to reduce negativity and stress, seeking approval, trying to be mindful, making choices, having faith, laughing, loving, dissociating, denying, hiding, yelling, trusting, saying “no,” saying “yes”

How are these actions and reactions influencing how you feel? Do you change what you do as a result of the feelings? 

We are often supervised, observed, or monitored at home and at work. Spouses, siblings, parents, bosses, teachers, doctors, you name it, someone is expecting something from  you!

Some common reactions to having others check up on us at home and work:

anger, impatience, feeling judged, hiding behind denial, feeling intruded on and violated, confidence eroding, frustration, anxiety, suspicion, lack of trust, powerlessness, fearfulness, foolishness, wariness, tension, shame

When we get feedback from the supervision, or nosy neighbor, or too involved parent, or our spouse, it is often NOT what we want to hear!

You might feel:   

like you’ve been sent to the principal’s office or the woodshed, you’ve gotten a spanking, déjà vu: a naughty kid, embarrassed, not supported, martyred, misunderstood, attacked, helpless, stupid, over-whelmed, undermined, angry, betrayed 

How does this feeling change your relationship with the person giving you the feedback? 

How does the feeling change your relationship with yourself?

Sometimes we read things or hear things and take them personally. Often we are unaware of this process. Seeing an ad for a diet pill might evoke strong reactions that we skillfully block, without being aware we've done it. Something gets stirred up, but we let it sit and stew, or even influence what we say or do in the next few hours, or days, or years.  

Our reactions to the messages we get through television, radio, newspapers, magazines, books, and the internet are often quick and deadly. 

We are not mindful, we are reactful. 

We don’t even know that the helpful mass media purveyors of “right and wrong” have pushed our buttons. We are stabbed and the bleeding is all internal.

Do you let too much information indiscriminately flood into your life? 

Stay conscious of what is going into your brain.

If our heads swelled up with every piece of silly, insipid, pointless, foolish, hurtful, incorrect information that flew into our ears and eyes in an average week, we couldn’t fit into our houses. Talk about an epidemic of fat heads!

Some suggestions for navigating the world of emotions:

First, focus on one major feeling or reaction at a time; you have enough to handle without biting off more than you can chew.

Then, isolate what you believe to be your most troublesome or frequent feeling or reaction.

Find a quiet, private place; you can relax your muscles or mediate or pray for a few minutes; perhaps, play soft music if that doesn’t distract you; sit or lay down ¾ whatever is most comfortable; light candles if there is no danger of burning the house down.

When you feel calmer than your usual state or simply more relaxed, think about your feeling or reaction:

Try to explore all aspects of it; where does it start?

Is it light, heavy, constricting, intense, intermittent?

Can you describe it in colors or sounds or smells?

Can you feel it in a certain part of your body?

Your stomach, heart, throat, forehead?

If you have pain along with your feeling, let your mind travel to the hurting part of your body.

Trace the boundaries of the pain in your mind: How far does the pain extend?

Is it a circle, irregular shape, covers a large area, on both sides or just one side?

Decide  if your feeling is related to your pain?

Take a long slow breath and let it out slowly, paying attention to the

release that comes with a deep breath.

Breath a few more times; relish the feeling. You are in control of this.

Pull air deeply into your lungs, filling your chest, pushing your stomach out just a bit to give your lungs room to expand fully.

What a miracle to draw life-giving air into your body ¾ it is free of associations, expectations, assumptions.

As you are breathing, let your attention wander back to your pain or whatever place you think your feeling has settled ¾ maybe in the back of your neck; perhaps in your gut.

Pull the air into that part of your body; hold your breath lightly ¾ don’t strain.

As you gently hold your breath, pretend to breathe out without letting any air escape out your nose or mouth. You may feel your lungs straining a little, but soon you may feel tingly and a little odd ¾ let the air push itself into your body ¾ into your chest and arms, down into your legs.

Take another deep breath.

Slowly take your mind back to your feeling or your pain.

How does it seem now? Is it less pronounced, covers a smaller area, fading away? If you imagined it as a color, is it lighter now, a different hue, maybe transparent.

If you imagined it as a sound, how has that changed? Louder, softer, higher, lower?  

Now check your entire body for tension; start with your face or your toes ¾ whatever is most comfortable. Just let your attention wander slowly over all parts of your body; if you feel tightness, breath deeply and let it go as much as possible;

Keep wandering over your body until you have investigated all of it and breathed out most of the tension.

Take yourself back to your emotion ¾ rouse yourself by gently moving and stretching. Let your breathing go back to a more normal state.

Try to put words to your feelings now. If you started out with fear or anxiety, are you more relaxed now?  

Write down some of the key feelings. Then try to summarize what happened to you as you explored your sensations or emotions.

Copyright 2003
Constance Lee Menefee
Cincinnati, Ohio