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4 Tips to Get in Touch with Your Feelings Instead of Burying Them

The Scream

“Hope is the feeling that the feeling you have isn’t permanent.” ~Jean Kerr

I’ve just given up smoking. Again. It’s a bad habit that I can’t seem to shake because I’m likely to relapse when I’m stressed.

I try to rationalize my destructive behavior—I don’t smoke heavily, I don’t smoke that much since I stick to rolling tobacco which makes thinner cigarettes, it’s fifteen minutes to myself where nobody will question why I’m taking time to do and think about nothing.

No matter how much I justify my bad habit, I can’t deny that I’m dependent on a bad thing to cancel out a bunch of other bad things.

Most of us use destructive methods to avoid difficult things on occasion. We may choose to remain silent in the face of confrontation instead of speaking out and defending ourselves, or we might hide behind our anger instead of admitting that we’re frustrated and scared.

Here’s what I’ve been doing to deal with my feelings instead of avoiding them:

1. Dig deep and think about what’s really getting to you.

In the past, I’d run outside for my fifteen minutes of silence and cigarettes when I found it impossible to communicate the anger and desperation I was feeling. I still have those things inside of me today, so why am I not elsewhere now, puffing away?

Here’s why: I burst. I screamed at myself in frustration and it all came pouring out. A rambling dialogue between me, myself and I revealed that I felt stuck, stupid, and terrified of what my very uncertain future held for me.

I was annoyed at the lack of support I have from the places I really need it and the lack of opportunity where I really need it.

Coming to terms with your feelings is a chore—and a painful one at times—but once you’re in the habit of it, the benefits are immediate and endless.

2. Stay committed to communicating your feelings, even if it gets difficult.

I’m dumbfounded by people who don’t let you get a word in edgewise. You know what it’s like; if you’re in an argument or even talking with good friends, sometimes you’re shut out with little space to express yourself.

In group situations, I’d shut up and sit down if I sensed that I wasn’t going to hold the floor at any point. My experiences have been dire in this arena; I’ve been shouted down and ridiculed many times so it’s no surprise that I chose to stay quiet.

However, I’ve found an unusual remedy: mime.

When everyone is yelling (or speaking over you) and battling to hold the stage, use your body to communicate instead of your voice. Actions speak louder than words? They certainly do. This is a real attention-grabber, one you’ll have to commit to for it to be effective.

I recommend it as a tool for getting that silence you need in order to make your voice heard when everything else has failed. Try it. You’ll get stared at but you’ll also get the floor.

3. Don’t let yourself reach boiling point in difficult situations.

Drop everything (carefully) and walk away. Don’t worry about people trying to stop you—you’re on your way out before you do something you regret, like lose your temper.

There’s nothing wrong with walking away from a heavy situation and coming back to it after you’ve calmed down. Take fifteen to twenty minutes to clear your mind, stretch your tense muscles, and feel your body working; heart beats, lungs fill and empty, thoughts dissipate. A moment of stillness is enough to cool you down.

If people apprehend you, ask them politely to respect your space. Don’t explain yourself to them. If they can’t take the hint, keep walking until they do.

4. Vent your feelings physically.

One thing I like to do is toss books, papers, and laundry into the air. I’ve also smashed dustbin lids while venting. A lot of people will say that this is just as destructive as yelling and screaming at someone you love, but I disagree. Even if you damage something, it can be replaced; a loved one can’t.

Obviously, don’t trash your home, but don’t be scared of expressing yourself physically. It’s immensely helpful for getting in touch with and venting your feelings.

I also like to play music when I’m on the verge of losing it, let it soak into my body, and dance. Sports, the creative arts, cookery, and gardening are excellent forms of physical release.

Embrace what suits you and get a physical as you possibly can with the activity. Channel all of that anger, irritation, or sadness you’re feeling so you can experience and then transform it.

The more I move forward without smoking and the more I write for Tiny Buddha, the more I learn not to deny who I am and what I feel.

When you’re in touch with what you’re really feeling, you’re more likely to understand the situation and resolve it instead of avoiding it.

I haven’t smoked in a month and I feel grounded, real, and alive. Approaching my problems head on has made all the difference.

Avatar of Sam Russell

About Sam Russell

Sam Russell is a young writer from the southeastern corner of the UK. He’s a cynic by nature trying to prove that cynics can be happy and positive, too. Visit his blog at http://cackhanded.wordpress.com/.

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  • ricercar

    i agree with this so much that i could have written. with all the problems, that is. the solutions, well i have tried a load of them and they dont work. probably because there's still some denial / hiding going on in my head. but its getting better. atleast now i know i am hiding stuff from myself, and looking for it.

    i realise i get mad out of fear and frutration. and feeling trapped. and it is the child in me wanting to throw a tantrum. i saw a child in a bus throwing a tantrum and realised this. somehow that partly defused my 'personal involvement' with subsequent dramatic moments i staged (usually its all very passive and subtle). i could watch and say okay she's at it again. one thing that really helps is trying to watch my physical feelings. and this exercise http://thinksimplenow.com/clarity/train-your-ey… (it was for something else, but i use it for 'defusing' my feelings).

    now i know you are not talking about defusing but focussing on feelings. but in my case my feelings were so sudden and intense and confused. and most importantly the sources and connections so hidden, even from myself, that till i calm it down a bit i cant pay attention to it. not sure if thats all wrong, but its where i am now :-)

  • Michael

    I know everyone says this about blogs and quotes but this is really timely for me after the last fortnight or so! Hopefully I can put the advice into practice. Thank you. Afraid I have no advice to add though, may think on it :)

  • http://whollyafool.wordpress.com/ Michelle

    As silly as it sounds, I clean when I get angry! I really need to practice the walking away part, though. I'm a very combative person, so I tend to get really involved and the problem is I don't WANT to back away…at least until I 'teach' or convince the other person of something!
    My other problem is that half the time, I'm not even in these situations out of anger – just because I love debates so much! I think they're fun & constructive, and I love playing devil's advocate, at least on some level. There are a few select topics I'm very passionate about, and probably couldn't have a level-headed, friendly debate about, but most of the time, I think I'm pretty open in being able to see both sides of a problem. But often I'll find myself in the middle of what I thought was a fun, friendly debate with someone and realize that they have actually been taking what I've been saying very very personally.

  • nyima

    Hi. This tactic is what I used to quit smoking. With each urge: “I never, ever saw a picture of the Buddha with a cigarette dangling from his lips.” Hope this helps.

  • http://twitter.com/Sam_Russell_ Sam Russell

    nyima,

    That’s quite a striking image and one that I’ll definitely remember when I get the urge to roll up (ex-smoker also).

    Kudos

  • http://twitter.com/Sam_Russell_ Sam Russell

    Michelle,

    I know what you mean in being unable to walk away. I find that hard too, especially when I’m being baited by the other person but I found that sometimes, walking away and clearly stating ‘I’m not doing this. I know where I stand, I know what I believe and what you’re saying disagrees with my moral fibre’, is more effective than battling it out.

    People don’t like it when you walk away from them like that but they eventually take the hint. It takes some guts, but give it a bash the next time you’re backed into a corner.

    I think some people take debating too seriously (including myself) so I always try to make it lighter by throwing in some embarrasing examples of myself (if you can’t laugh at yourself, what can you laugh at?) and then try to practice what I preach. Although this bit is a chore sometimes.

    Kudos

  • http://twitter.com/Sam_Russell_ Sam Russell

    No problemo Michael – something always crops up when you need it the most. I think it’s because your heart is really searching for it, so maybe you already know these things? It just takes someone to confirm it.

    Be bold. Have a listen to that heart of yours – it’s got a lot to say.

    Kudos

  • http://twitter.com/Sam_Russell_ Sam Russell

    ricercar,

    I think it’s an unknown idea to live in the moment when it comes to raw feelings. There’s a lot out there that tells you to live ‘now’ with every other aspect of your life, but somehow I think I get blinked at when I recommended embracing a 10-minute hissy fit and letting youself go hysterical.

    Better than letting it stew. Living now also means feeling now, so feel away!

    Kudos

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  • Jgjuhnu

    I am so proud of u keep moving forward buddy!!!! Wonderful post!

  • William clay

    Great, sincerely thanks for sharing your process and progress