How to Know What You’re Really Feeling So You Can Feel Better

Thinking Woman

“The more you hide your feelings, the more they show. The more you deny your feelings, the more they grow.” ~Unknown

Throughout my life, I thought of myself as someone who felt too much. I was very gregarious and could easily be consumed by moments of joy and celebration. But when I was alone, I could be overtaken by angry, self-destructive voices that would dominate my mind.

By senior year of high school, I was spending many hours of the day crying, and had taken to pinching and punching myself until I was black and blue.

I felt I needed to gain more control over my emotional state, be more rational, have more perspective. Those were the kinds of things I was looking for when I first called my therapist, Marc Bregman, who invented a unique method of Archetypal Dreamwork.

Instead of learning how to manage my feelings, though, Marc taught me something totally different: how to feel them at all.

Normally, it's taken for granted that we feel our feelings and know how we feel. We even believe we know how others are feeling. And yet, we can accept that how we actually feel in any given moment is often extremely complex, confusing, and difficult to communicate.

In fact, I would contend that we are usually in an avoidance reaction to our feelings rather than truly feeling them.

Why? Namely because feeling our feelings means allowing states of experience that are truly difficult: pain, fear, despair, or vulnerability. So we cling to our assumptions about our feelings and often confuse these ideas with how we truly feel.

We can spend our whole life cycling on this level of feeling, never letting ourselves be conscious of what is driving our emotional states underneath.

Yet, just as matter cannot be created or destroyed, the energy carried by these deeper feeling states do not leave our psyche simply because we want to deny they are there.

Instead, they fuel the myriad of negative behaviors that we are often trying to fix—totally numbing out, projecting our feelings onto others, blaming others for our feelings, or engaging in compulsive and self-destructive behaviors.

Furthermore, by keeping our deepest pains at bay, we also lose access to the sweetest and most joyful aspects of our hearts. 

More than where you are from, how much money you have, what your family is like, or what knowledge you’ve gained, I believe that it is what you feel, what stirs you, what you love and what causes you pain that makes you you.

I believe that every human is connected to an eternal, infinite source, and it is our deepest feelings that connect us to this source. Through seeking the deepest parts of our hearts, we can learn what it means to manifest our true selves into the world.

To begin the journey of feeling of your feelings, try these steps:

Be open, be humble, and allow.

We often rely on our mind to interpret our inner feelings. Understand that our ideas about our feelings aren’t usually the whole story. Be curious and ask, what could be underneath this current emotional state?

Center your emotional experience in your body.

At the core, your feeling state is a physical experience happening in your body. Bringing your attention to where in your body you’re experiencing a feeling is a great way to deepen your visceral experience of it.

Don’t think about it too much.

It’s easy to get tangled trying to figure out what we feel by weighing various judgments, ideas, and experiences to determine what we should be feeling. What you feel doesn’t need any supporting evidence. It just is. Let it be.

Pay attention to your dreams.

Dreams, on a fundamental level, are felt experiences. They can be a tremendous help in mapping out your internal emotional landscape, especially the places we’d rather avoid. Try writing down your dreams and feeling into them rather than interpreting them. You may be surprised by what you uncover.

When I began following these steps, I had a number of dreams that showed me immersed in guilt for things, like being late to a meeting. By closing my eyes and concentrating on the image in the dream, I was able to attach the word guilt to a sinking, constricting feeling in my stomach.

This allowed me to become more aware of when I was feeling guilt in waking life. I didn’t realize it, but it was almost all the time. When I brought curiosity to those moments of guilt and understood there was probably a deeper feeling underneath, I began to feel fear, and eventually, desire.

In the past, being late to meet someone was my worst nightmare. The idea that someone might be agitated by something I did was excruciating.

I realized that all of this pressure I put on myself to please others was really driven by the deeper fear I had of truly being myself, regardless of what others thought of me. Once I was able to feel this fear, the guilt did not have as strong of a hold. 

When I let myself feel how scary it would be to not be concerned with what others thought of me, I also began to feel how much I wanted this for myself. I’ve learned that feelings of desire, excitement, and exhilaration are often intertwined with feelings of fear.

Perhaps it sounds counterintuitive, but it is that same combination of feelings that prompts us to ride life-threatening rollercoasters or write soul-bearing love letters to the ones who have stolen our hearts.

We fear what we desire because we know how vulnerable we’d be if we actually got it. But until we let ourselves access the fear, we don’t have the opportunity to be courageous.

Now when I feel guilt come up I don’t get stuck there for hours but am instead able to access my fear much more quickly. I can let the fear run through my body and let it take the time it needs to transform into feelings of excitement or desire.

Through letting myself feel these things, it’s become much easier for me to decide what I want to do. Instead of making decisions based on what I think others may or may not like, I’m able to choose the things that scare me, and thus exhilarate me.

This is just a single example of a myriad of surface feelings I have learned to relate to deeper feelings within me. While I am very far from living out these lessons all the time, just knowing what these deeper states feel like has made a tremendous difference in my life.

I wake up everyday with curiosity as to what aspects of my felt experienced could be revealed next, and gratitude at the amazing journey that is exploring my inner self.

And it can all start with a simple exploration—what does it truly feel like to be you, in your body, in this place, right now?

Photo by Clay Junell

About Kezia Kamenetz

Kezia Kamenetz is an Archetypal Dreamwork practitioner who lives in New Orleans, LA, with her partner Jordan. She leads a workshop series called Healing Through Feeling that uses experiential exercises to explore inner states. You can learn more about her practice by visiting her website,, or read more of her writing by visiting her blog,

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  • I relate so much to this! I’ve been really trying to focus on my feelings lately and feel them out instead of pushing them away and staying in denial. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  • gsfraser

    What you said about feeling being complex and largely un-understandable is bang on. Still unable to get past the idea of holding my hand on a hot stove as a means to overcoming a pain response – kill the nerves that transport the message. Simpler to keep your hand off the stove.

  • keziaK

    Thanks so much Liv! Good for you! The more you allow, the more you learn!

  • keziaK

    I know what you mean! It can be very counterintuitive to expose ourselves to pain as a way to heal. But I don’t know that I would compare feeling our pain to touch a hot stove. I would say it’s more like sticking your toe into some cool water. At first it feels horrible, you may not even want to get in! But then once you take the plunge, you never want to get out…

  • Josh

    some nice thoughts in your post,
    ‘We fear what we desire because we know how vulnerable we’d be if we actually got it. But until we let ourselves access the fear, we don’t have the opportunity to be courageous’
    that is really interesting, thanks

  • Great advice Kezia! I have found that when I address my feelings I grow to another lever. We also cannot run away from our fears because they will eventually catch up to us (It happened to me). Thank you for sharing!

  • Desiree

    Powerful post, Kezia!

  • lv2terp

    Wonderful post, a lot of good points to ponder that caused me to feel excited to be more curious, and great tips that you shared! 🙂 Thank you for sharing, and congratulations, what a beautiful place to be, and journey ahead of peace, freedom, and acceptance! 🙂

  • keziaK

    Thank you! Fear is such an interesting one to work with…bringing our awareness to it can open up so much.

  • keziaK

    So true! I’m so glad this piece touched you!

  • keziaK

    Thank you so much! Of course it is a never-ending journey…always more to learn 🙂

  • keziaK


  • pone79

    I learn so much from this post that I can’t wait to start implementing. Lately, I have been meditating for 15 minutes each day. Somewhere deep down I knew that the purpose of meditation, at least for me is more then just to sit in silence and focus on my breath. I would try to suppress any thoughts or feelings that I experienced while meditating. But going forwards, instead of suppressing my feelings I will have an attitude of curiosity towards them. I will welcome them as messenger from my heart. What I am not going to do is follow my feelings and make a story from them.

    Just today, I was telling myself that we humans are so much more amazing and mysterious then we give ourselves credit for. But alas, we spend more time figuring out what happened in Roswell or to flight MH-370 then uncovering who we truly are.

  • gsfraser

    Intellectually, I can understand what you are saying. Trying to “make” myself do so is met with the same internal resistance as if you told me the same thing about the stove. I can no more willingly submit to the whims of my emotions (so choose miserable and angry – at least it’s consistent) than I can willingly place my hand on the stove.
    Do I want to feel the highs? Not really. They are never worth the pain that inevitably follows.
    Pain of my own making? Perhaps. Also irrelevant.
    I want to not feel at all.

  • Jeevan/Mirthu/Gupt

    This was really insightful; thank you for sharing! So true, “We fear what we desire because we know how vulnerable we’d be if we actually got it; But until we let ourselves access the fear, we don’t have the opportunity to be courageous!”

  • Kirsty

    This is scarily relevant to me right now. I’ve just come to accept that I am denying all these feelings and know now that I am going to have to address and release them if I want to carry on. I’m terrified as to what this will look like for me. Your writing has given me a bit of hope. Thank you

  • keziaK

    I am so glad! It can be very scary at first but if you can learn to trust that there is support and love for you in this world simply because you are you, it can be a lot easier! Dreams can often provide you this support…

  • keziaK

    I’m so glad it resonated with you! A lot of people have mentioned that quote was touching, I think I should write more about the fear!

  • keziaK

    Hehe yes we can tend to get caught up with aliens and the passing fly when there is a whole world bubbling underneath! I’m glad you feel like you can start applying this stuff right away…keep in touch and let me know how it goes!

  • Kelsey H

    I feel a huge weight lifted from my heart because of your words Kezia! For four years now I have been associating the feeling of failure to a situation I went through. When in reality because of your wisdom the feeling I’ve been fearing is victimization.

  • Noctu Sova

    For awhile I tried to see things as grey.
    But I was really mostly just seeing everything as black.
    No more colors.
    Things are what they jolly well are!

  • Kimbe MacMaster

    Kezia, this is an absolutely phenomenal post: actionable, inspiring, and emotive. A few tears were certainly wiped from my eyes throughout – thank you for being the spark that will no doubt start my own emotional discovery! 🙂