Updated: Jun 10, 2020
I woke up for no reason at 4am. My first thought was “I don’t feel good”. In the past, I would have labeled the feeling as “anxiety” or “overwhelm” but that hasn’t been helping much lately. What has been more useful is asking myself the following questions:
Am I in a same space to feel fully?
Sure, I was pretty much alone except for the other people sleeping in the house. If I had felt like I was about to sob, I might have needed to go somewhere else.
Can I fully accept what I feel, moment to moment?
This means not resisting what’s happening. I consciously softened my belly, because it had tightened in reaction to the initial feeling. I followed the feeling with my awareness for a few minutes, noticing how it changed over time. I noticed how my breath was fast and shallow.
Where is the feeling?
At first it was in my chest, then in the right part of my belly, then up in my throat. I continued to scan through to find exactly which bodily signals had my brain thinking that this was “not good”.
Can I detach from the feeling?
I allowed myself to feel each physical sensation and each emotion while giving up the idea that they were “bad”. With this neutral mindset, I was able to follow the feeling as it dissipated. And I eventually feel asleep again.
The Feel Fully Process
Sometimes we experience powerful emotions that take us over. Instead of pushing them away or distracting ourselves, can we be with the pain for a few moments? Feel Fully is a four step process to move through painful emotions - moving from pain to relief.
With practice, all 4 of these Feel Fully steps flow into each other, and can occur quite quickly. The thought process changes to a FEELING process.
I have felt so much relief in letting myself feel.
Let me go over the steps I followed again, so that you can try my Feel Fully strategy the next time you're feeling a strong emotion.
1. Get in a safe environment
- Find a safe space, both emotionally and physically
- Be alone, or around someone who you know won't judge you
2. No resistance
- Accept what you’re feeling
- Allow yourself to feel everything
- Accept how the feeling changes your breath, without trying to bring yourself back to a regulated breathing pattern
3. Feel it in your body
- Scan through your bodily sensations from head to toe
- Find the physical feeling that is telling you that you feel this emotion
- Follow the sensations moment to moment and watch as they change over time
- Visualize your feeling as a colour, shape or pattern. Imagine how it is changing, how the borders of the shape/colour are moving, as time passes
- Stop identifying with the feeling (You are not your anger/anxiety/fear/disappointment/sadness)
- Stop defining your feeling. It doesn’t need a label put on it
- Accept without attaching story or meaning. This feeling has zero effect on your worth as a person.
What's the risk?
When I ask my clients to begin using this strategy, the idea that feeling pain will end up making you feel better brings up some resistance:
"I have to make myself think positively"
“You don’t want to be too negative, but you still want to be realistic”
"I can't let myself feel the extent of how bad I feel because then it will take me over"
But what if..
...you can allow yourself to feel these "negative" emotions in a safe environment, knowing that they are only temporary. With support, you can be firmly grounded in the present moment, knowing that this pain will not last forever. That by moving through it, you will get to the other side where you will feel relief.
You are resilient. You are not your emotions. And after the pain, you will feel joy again.