You need to process those feelings.

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Unexplored feelings are like unopened mail.

Emotional Regulation

Managing Feelings
Photo courtesy of Flickr ( istolethetv )

Imagine going into your email and randomly deleting as many emails as possible. That email from a friend – mark it delete.

The email from the electric company and the mortgage company delete those unopened. Can you imagine going along randomly clicking delete without knowing what was in the email?

Some people try to avoid bills by not opening the mail. While that may avoid having to deal with problems for a while, eventually the power gets shut off, or the home goes into foreclosure. Those and many other issues could have been solved just by paying attention to the notices you are getting.

Some people think feelings are to be avoided.

Somewhere along the line, I’m guessing back during the Victorian era; feelings got a bad reputation. In their effort not to be carried away and controlled by feelings, being rational and unemotional was elevated to a virtue. The problem that created was making feelings into our enemies rather than our friends.

Feelings can be valuable sources of information.

It turns out that emotions and feelings can be valuable sources of information. By some estimates, more than half of all your nerve cells are located outside your head. There are nerve cells surrounding your stomach and intestines. They can tell you when you’re hungry or when your intestines are in distress.

Those same nerve cells can also communicate information about dangerous or unpleasant situations. When you say that someone makes you sick to your stomach, there’s truth to that statement. Your nervous system is reacting to that person and preparing to ready you for the flight or fight response.

When we say that someone is a pain in the neck, this is a very tangible sensation. The nerve cells which connect your brain to the muscles in your neck have sent the message to tighten those muscles in preparation for an emergency.

Unpleasant feelings can also motivate you to act.

Loneliness can make you miserable. Loneliness can also tell you that you aren’t getting enough human contact. Humans are inherently social animals. Living in groups increases our chances of survival. Feeling lonely can motivate you to reach out to others and increase your social connections.

Feeling tired both physically and emotionally tired is one of the early signs of burnout. Feeling tired warns you that the energy you are expending exceeds the available resources. Rather than being an interference with what you’re trying to do that feeling of being tired is a warning that you need to attend to your bodies physical and emotional resources.

Trying to avoid feeling unpleasant emotions can harm you.

Many people get themselves into serious trouble by attempting to avoid experiencing unpleasant feelings. Using drugs and alcohol to cope with anger, loneliness, or feeling tired, may anesthetize those feelings in the short term but eventually, those efforts to escape dealing with those feelings results in creating an even larger problem, alcoholism or drug addiction.

You shouldn’t pretend that you don’t feel what you’re feeling.

Ignoring the messages from feelings is the emotional equivalent of taping over the gauges on your car’s dashboard. You can ignore the check engine light, disregard the oil light, and ignore the gas gauge, but if you do, eventually your car will stop running.

Feelings can be like little children clamoring for your attention.

The next time you experience a feeling you’d rather not feel, try treating it like a small child. Initially, you need to listen to that feeling. After you are sure you’ve heard the message, the feeling is giving you, decide what you want to do with it. Sometimes you must deal with it immediately, and other times you can defer action. What you shouldn’t do is try to ignore the message that feeling is trying to give you.

Learning to work cooperatively with your feelings rather than being controlled by them or completely ignoring their messages is a skill you need to develop to have a happy, productive, life.

For more on this topic, take a look at the post about the three processes for making friends with your feelings.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Three David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

SasquatchWandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive? The guests had come to Meditation Mountain to find themselves. Trapped in the Menhirs during a sudden desert storm, two guests move through a porthole in time and encounter long extinct monsters. They want to get back to their own time, but the Sasquatch intends to kill them.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Books are now available on Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, and many other online stores.

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Advertisements

What operating system is installed in your brain?

By David Joel Miller.

How is your brain programmed to handle life?

Brain Apps

Brain Apps.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Most of us like to think that we have a lot of free will, we can make choices.  Psychology tells us that many of those choices we think we’re making are the result of programming, early life learning, which has created a default way in which we deal with life.

Sometimes it is helpful to think of these default operating systems as blueprints for living which we developed in childhood.  Many people find that the problems they deal with in adult life are things they learned between the ages of eight and eighteen which worked back then but do not work well as adults.

These default operating systems can sometimes work well and help us get through things.  Other times we find that there are flaws, fatal errors in our programming, which result in a less than ideal life. If you’re finding life isn’t going the way you thought it would, you may want to take a look at that programming and see if it doesn’t need an update.

Here are the most common brain operating system problems.

Act out, behavioral solutions.

For many people, this is the default setting.  When upset or angry they act out.  People who opt for the behavioral solution may become violent, throw things, yell at people or swear.  In action adventure movies this is the way the hero frequently behaves.

Acting out and behavioral solutions are a typical male way of reacting.  In athletic competition, young men and women are encouraged to be aggressive.  Outside of athletic competition, these behaviors are unacceptable.

In school, many boys get in trouble for this and may be suspended or expelled.  Later on in life using behavioral solutions to life’s problems may get you arrested, put in jail or result in prison time.  Developing the skill to think it over before using a behavioral solution is an important part of the developmental process.

Stay inside your head, isolate.

A second response pattern which is often learned in childhood is to avoid problems by withdrawing and pulling inside.  Historically girls tended to use this strategy. When stressed they would often sit at their desks staring at their work.

The result of using the isolating, withdrawal strategy, is to avoid confrontations.  It may also result in you being considered less intelligent or incapable of doing the work.

High alert, stay in fear. Scan for the negative.

A certain amount of vigilance and anxiety can be protective.  Too much anxiety becomes a problem.  People who adopt a strategy of using high attention to avoid danger can become over-anxious.  This can result in hypervigilance.  People with hypervigilance often have an exaggerated startle response.  The door slams down the hall and they jump out of their seats.

Avoidance. Use drugs, don’t trust.

Another common way of dealing with problem situations is simply to avoid interacting with the situation.  Avoidance can be as simple as just don’t talk to or see someone who is upsetting.  Other common avoidance techniques are using alcohol, drugs or another behavioral addiction.

Some people avoid painful situations simply by not interacting with others.  They may avoid friendships or close intimate relationships.  People who have been disappointed by others try to avoid additional disappointments by not putting their trust in other people.

Don’t feel.

In some family’s feelings are a banned substance.  The goal of not feeling was to avoid anything that would be upsetting.  In family’s like this people never talk about their pain or their hurt.  While this strategy may seem like a good way to avoid unpleasant emotions, it has some long-lasting negative effects.

If you grew up in a home which never dealt with feelings, you may be totally unprepared for the feelings that you do have.  People who never learned how to manage anger, pain, and sadness, are at high risk to be overwhelmed by these feelings when they do experience them.

People who have a history of not feeling are likely to also say that they have never experienced happiness.  In order to experience positive emotions, you also need to be able to experience the negative ones.  Consistently avoiding feelings can leave people feeling numb.

What are the rules? Tell me what to do.

When people don’t develop basic skills to make decisions, they may have a strong tendency to rely on extensive rules.  These people are often attracted to dogmatic leaders.  And they’re likely to be very legalistic.  You can easily spot these people.  They frequently can cite the exact rule that they believe applies to this situation.  What they find difficult to do is to function in situations where there are unclear rules or were new rules need to be made.

Rule users are also likely to try to impose their beliefs about what things should be like on other people.  They are likely to be intolerant of variation and nonconformity.

File everything for future use. Hold onto the hurts.

Another way of coping with life’s uncertainties is to never express how you feel about things.  People who adopt this strategy, often do a thing called gunny sacking.  When someone does something to bother or upset them they will hold onto that slight for later use.  They pick these little resentments up, one at a time, holding onto them for future use.  When the gunny sack gets full they unload the entire list of past resentments on the other person.

Act on those feelings, impulsivity.

Some people rather than using feelings as information feel compelled to do whatever those feelings urge them to do.  They become, in effect, slaves to those feelings.  Rather than taking ownership of their feelings they believe that other people make them happy, make them sad, or make them angry.  Since they ascribe their feelings to another person, they also believe the other person is responsible for that feeling and for their actions.

Beat your body into submission.

Some people, when under stress, take it out on themselves.  They may engage in an excess of exercise or even in physical abuse.  These people are at high risk to become cutters or in other ways engage in self-injurious behavior.

No Starter.

Some people adopt a strategy of dealing with the risks of life but trying to avoid taking any risks.  They simply never begin anything and therefore never fail at anything.  The downside of this strategy is that by never starting anything they are never successful at anything.

No brakes.

Other people avoid the uncertainties of life by trying to never accept any feedback on their actions.  Once they begin on a course of action no matter how many difficulties they may encounter they continue going forward.  These are the people who find it impossible to admit they’ve made a mistake.

Not many functions. No vocabulary.

Some people’s brains are programmed for a limited number of functions.  They simply haven’t developed the skills necessary to do other things.  A lot of what humans do is symbolic.  We use words to talk about the feelings in our lives and what we want to do.  Some people lack the vocabulary to express the feelings they do have.

Executive function that decides what routine to use.

The most desirable and most effective operating system for humans is one that involves a great deal of executive function, the ability to think about, communicate about, and make decisions.  People with a good executive function are able to set a new course, stick to that course and accomplish great things.

This is a brief description of possible human operating systems.  Many people probably use several of these methods on a daily basis.  Which of these mental operating systems have you developed?  Consider increasing the number of apps your brain has available for day-to-day life.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.