Archive of ‘Feelings’ category

An Introduction Into Feelings

There are feelings we prefer to experience, and some that we would rather do without. Oftentimes these get categorized into “good” and “bad” emotions. For example, “happy” might feel good, but “sadness” might feel bad, and so they consciously or subconsciously get labeled as such. What if I were to tell you that feelings are neither good nor bad, but rather neutral? What if I were to say that a feeling like “anger” is not only okay, but normal and human? When we categorize feelings into good and bad, we are more prone to having more complex emotions and judgment about ourselves (such as having feelings about our feelings), bottling up emotions (which instead of making feelings disappear will lead to further unresolved feelings that tend to fester and pop up at a later time), and missing out on understanding ourselves better. Rather than looking at our feelings through the lens of good and bad, I would like to challenge you to look at them through the lens of curiosity.

Seeing Our Feelings as Information 

When we are looking at our feelings through curious eyes, we can gain better understanding about ourselves. Our feelings are information; clues that help us in getting to know ourselves better. For example, if one feels sad when a friend moves away, being curious about that feeling can help you learn more about what you value. You might find after sitting with that feeling for a bit that you miss talking with them, and make a plan to facetime, write letters to each other, or plan times to visit. You might also find in that same scenario that you are mourning that things will not be the same with that friend again – those feelings of loss and grief are okay too. There may not be a way to make things just as they were, but you are learning that you cared deeply about this friend, that it hurts when losses are experienced, and that it is okay to mourn that loss and feel sad. In learning this about yourself and taking this information in, you may find that you need more support from others during this time and seek out loved ones to talk to, or incorporate some walking into your routine to help boost some endorphins during this difficult time. Alternatively, pushing the feeling of sadness away because it is uncomfortable and not addressing it does not mean that the sadness goes away and is not felt; it just means that it is not being recognized, processed, and worked through. Every person and every situation is different and has different needs, so working through feelings will look differently in each case. However, the more we push away feelings, the more they pile up, and the more unresolved feelings you may have later down the line. 

The example above was about experiencing sadness, which might be an uncomfortable emotion. Likewise, we can also look with curiosity at the feelings we tend to enjoy and dig a little deeper about where they are coming from and how to incorporate more of these types of healthy experiences, situations, and relationships into our lives. The word “curiosity” helps to keep us from judgment, and helps us have a healthier outlook in learning more about ourselves. We can also use this curiosity to better understand the people around us, whether it is a partner, friend, child, or someone else.

Taking Responsibility Over What’s Ours 

Some may wonder something along the lines of, “If feelings are not bad, how come others don’t like when I’m sad?” or “If anger is okay, does that mean it’s okay for others to yell at me because they’re angry?” 

The simple answer for the first question is – we can’t control how others feel about our feelings, but we can choose how to respond to our own emotions. The long answer is that some people may not have the same understanding about feelings being neutral, and may be uncomfortable seeing others with feelings like sadness and anger (or any number of other feelings). We cannot control how others respond to our emotions, but what we can control is the way that we respond to our emotions. 

In response to the second question, we’ve established that being angry is not bad, and that we also take responsibility for how we respond to that anger. Acknowledging the feeling, we can make a conscious effort to be curious and learn more about ourselves. Research professor Brené Brown asserts in her book Atlas of the Heart that anger is often an emotion that is covering up other emotions. For example we might experience anger because it feels less vulnerable than fear, rejection, or guilt. Taking the time to be curious about what we are feeling can help us have a clearer picture about what we are experiencing. Just as we can respond to anger with curiosity, we can also choose to respond to the feeling of anger in other ways such as yelling at whoever is nearby. Whereas learning more about ourselves will help us grow, yelling at others will likely cause rupture in our relationships and other undesired consequences. That is all to say, a feeling and a response to a feeling are two different things. The ways we respond to our feelings have consequences, so it’s in the way that we choose to react from our feelings that makes the difference. That being said, it is okay for others to experience anger as well, but they are also responsible for the way that they respond to that emotion. (Note: children are new to understanding emotions and will need a parent’s help in recognizing what they’re feeling and guidance in learning healthy ways to work through and express those feelings.) 

Feelings Wheel 

Now that we’ve learned a little about how to be accepting of our feelings, we might still find that it’s sometimes hard to pinpoint what we’re feeling. A Feelings Wheel is a tool that can help give more words to the feelings we feel. Not all Feelings Wheel’s are the same, but there are typically some basic emotions in the center of the wheel, and then the feeling words branch out to have more specific feelings. Feelings Wheels help give us an insight into the many different things we might be feeling, and naming the feeling can bring comfort and be a first step into digging a bit deeper. I have included a Feelings Wheel for reference, but a quick internet search will give you some more options and perhaps more words that resonate with you. There are also some Feelings Wheels that are more appropriate for younger children which include faces and/or a more limited amount of feeling words to choose from. If you find that exploring your feelings is too difficult, confusing, complicated, or causes you distress, seeking out the help of a counselor might be helpful. Counselors are here to help people get to know themselves better and walk alongside them on the path to their goals.

Saying “no” Is Incredibly Difficult

For some of you, saying “no” may be easy. In which case I hope you’re enjoying your beautifully boundaried life! (Maybe there’s some jealousy there…) For the rest of us, even when we know it’s in our best interest to say “no,” we don’t. 

Recently I was invited to brunch with some colleagues, and it would have been the EASIEST thing to say “no” to. I’ve been working my butt off and I’m currently over-committed to extra-curricular activities. I didn’t say “no.” In fact, as soon as I got the confirmation, I immediately replied “YEP! I’ll be there!” And here are all the reasons why I did that: 

  1. I love this group of friends. 
  2. It’s been a hot minute since I’ve seen them, and I missed them.
  3. When we first had the idea to plan a brunch, I helped spearhead the scheduling, so I felt I had a responsibility to attend. 
  4. I thought brunch doesn’t require energy. All I have to do is eat, drink, laugh, right? And just for an hour or two. 
  5. I forgot that I’m not superhuman and that I actually have limited energy resources.

But Here’s The Kicker

I said “yes” because I was stressed. How does that make sense? We’re less boundaried in our lives when we’re stressed. It takes energy to set boundaries, to say “no” to things, and I was all out of energy. 

In my stressed state, I wasn’t thinking about the energy it takes to be social (I’m a bit of an introvert). I didn’t think about the fact that it’d take 30 minutes for me to get to the restaurant we agreed to meet. And then 30 minutes back. Not to mention that I had an other event to attend immediately afterward that would be taking more of my energy. 

The point here is that it’s a cycle. When we commit to too much, it drains us, which leaves us much less likely to to have the energy needed to draw boundaries. We have to break the cycle somewhere. 

For me, I have the opportunity to break the cycle with my therapist. 50 minutes, just for me, to talk to someone who also wants to help me set some boundaries so that I don’t end up completely exhausted. I, of course, WANT to do everything. To go to all the brunches and the trainings and the creative activities and the weekend events and and and. Unfortunately, I’m a finite human, and I have to prioritize the things that are most important. 

We Can’t Do It All.

There’s some grief to process there too. Sadness about all the things I don’t have the energy to do, even though I want to. Maybe I’ll get to get to do them at a later point in time, or maybe it was a missed opportunity. But then I think of all the things I would have to miss when I burn out (which is inevitable with this lifestyle). When I “have to” miss things, they’re usually things I wish I had prioritized. When I choose to miss things, they’re usually things that are lower on my priority list, and thus I feel less regret. 

I’ll leave you with this: Consciously saying “no” to less important things is another way of saying “yes” to more important things. 

Written By: Mike Rothschild, M.A., LPC-Associate, NCC, Supervised by M. Michelle Hawn, LPC-S

Picture Books as Therapy

Understanding complex emotions and life events is difficult for anyone, but especially for children. When they don’t have the proper tools to express their inner turmoil and process their surroundings, this can often lead to frustrating interactions with parents and caregivers. One tool to give your child is seeing big emotions and hard situations played out in a book.

Books are a great way to help children understand their feelings, learn about differences, and begin to understand the world around them. This can start as early as toddlerhood with picture books! An extra bonus to picture books is the visual representation of emotions, interactions, and experiences. These can be jumping off points for all kinds of conversations with your little ones. Not only that, but it removes your little one from having to be the one with the heavy feelings or thoughts. Instead, by focusing on the stories of the character, you can discuss these feelings and thoughts without your child feeling put on the spot.

With that in mind, here are eight suggestions for picture books that can help engage your little one in some of life’s biggest questions:

Big Bear Was Not the Same

By Joanna Rowland

(Beaming Books, 2021)

Joanna Rowland is a fantastic author whose books tackle real-life issues. Big Bear was Not the Same discusses posttraumatic stress disorder and the effects that trauma can have on individuals who experience it and those close to them. In addition to Big Bear was Not the Same, her other books focus on tough topics such as grief, friendship when times are tough, and hope.

Ruby Finds a Worry

By Tom Percival

(2018, Bloomsbury)

Tom Percival is another picture book author that takes big feelings and makes them relatable to children. In Ruby Finds a Worry, Ruby experiences anxiety and thinks she is the only child with this issue. Eventually she realizes everyone gets Worries and the best way to deal with them is not to ignore them, but talk about them. Not only will the story interest your little readers, but the art depictions of the Worry are fun and engaging. Tom has many other books focusing on social emotional learning in his Big Bright Feelings series, including Perfectly Norman, Ravi’s Roar, and Meesha Makes Friends.

My Shadow is Pink

By Scott Stuart

(Larrikin House, 2021)

This was one of my favorite picture books of 2021 (and apparently one of my daughter’s also, since she made it read it 3 times on the drive home from the bookstore alone)! A young boy who loves pink and dresses and “things that aren’t for boys” struggles to be himself when he doesn’t fit in with his family and friends. Stuart’s beautiful illustrations and lyrical prose open the door for inclusivity, diversity, self love, and acceptance. This book gives children the permission to “be themselves, even when it’s uncomfortable.”

The Princess and the Fog

By Anthony Lloyd Jones

(Hachette, 2015)

The princess has everything she ever needs to make her happy until one day a fog settles over her and she can’t seem to feel happy anymore. The Princess and the Fog provides a fun, relatable look at childhood depression. An included guide in the back matter helps parents dig deeper on the topic. With realistic explanations of depression symptoms, Jones does a beautiful job of helping open up a conversation and foster understanding.

Don’t Hug Doug

By Carrie Finison

(Penguin Random House, 2021)

Bodily autonomy and consent are tricky topics to discuss with kids, but important nonetheless. Don’t Hug Doug approaches bodily autonomy in a way kids can relate to– with the concept of hugs. Doug doesn’t like hugs, but his friends and family often insist on hugging him! This book encourages children to ask before touching someone and to voice their own desires about how they are touched. Instead of a hug, why not a high five?

It Will Be Okay

By Lisa Katzenberger

(Sourcebooks Explore, 2021)

Katzenberger creates a kid friendly approach to anxiety through her story about Giraffe and Zebra. When going about his usual routine Giraffe experiences something that makes him so worried and anxious he just wants to hide. Zebra’s empathy and friendship help him overcome his anxiety and get back to enjoying his day. Katzenberger includes excellent educational back matter that can help parents and teachers engage deeper with the topic of anxiety. 

The Struggle Bus

By Julie Koon

(Kind World Publishing, 2022)

Each of us have experienced days where we felt like we were on the “struggle bus”. Nothing is going our way, we can’t seem to make things work out, and we have no idea how we’re going to get things done. In her book, Koon takes this to the next level by presenting children with images of an actual school bus as “the struggle bus”. Her lovely rhyme walks children through times of frustration, hardship, and ultimately perseverance. 

The Breaking News

By Sarah Lynne Reul

(Roaring Brook Press, 2018)

This year especially has seen lots of heartbreaking and stressful things in the news. From war, to pandemic, to school shootings, children may have been exposed to or have seen their caregivers’ reactions to media coverage of difficult situations. Sarah Lynne Reul tackles this in “The Breaking News” and helps show children and adults alike that while they may not be able to do BIG things to combat these issues, even small things can make a big difference. 

Each of these books are excellent ways to not only dig deeper into big topics with your children, but to encourage their love of reading and their imagination. 

For more resources on handling tough topics with kids, or to look into therapeutic interventions for yourself, your child, or family email [email protected].

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