For the eleven something years that I have been doing therapy, one question comes up a lot. Why do you think emotions are important?
And some associated thoughts and feelings–I don’t want to think about them, don’t care about them, find them bothersome, don’t think I want to because they overwhelm me.
And my response is usually: You need your emotions because they’re always there, even when you don’t feel them. Your emotions need to be validated because we feel the way we feel and thats okay. Or, knowing your emotions won’t overwhelm you, but ignoring them, pushing them away, pretending they don’t exist-most certainly will.
It’s like this… if you mind is like a river, emotions are the different fish swimming under the surface. So why do you need to care about the fish swimming under the surface? Because your emotions contain valuable information. They carry vital pieces of information about your thoughts, your subconscious and your needs and wants.
An emotion check-in is simply asking yourself- “How am I feeling?” and then maybe following up with “What’s making me feel this way?” Make this check in a part of your practice, and make space for whatever comes up for you. Sit with those feelings, and acknowledge them without judging them. This helps us not feel surprised or ambushed by our emotions.
You can also do this when you find yourself feeling numb or feeling something that you can’t pinpoint. If the answer does not come right away, try again or later. Keep trying. A friend once told me …its like doing a headstand (seems near impossible at first, but once you learn it, you never forget). I’ve never done a headstand, but I think that’s true (the near impossible part at least).
So the next time your therapist asks you, “How are you feeling?” or “How did that make you feel?” think about how important that question is for YOU! Take a deep breath, reflect and really, REALLY think about it.