How to tame and train emotions and feelings.

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

Man with feelings

Managing feelings.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

3 step process for making feelings a part of your recovery.

Emotional Regulation

Managing feelings
Photo courtesy of Flickr (istolethetv)

There was a time, back in the Victorian days when feelings were suspect and the goal was to stop feeling and to think logically. This approach has resulted in feelings and intuition getting a bad name.

If you have struggled with an emotional or mental illness, say depression or anxiety, it is hard to keep in mind that in smaller doses that anxiety or sadness could have been your friend. A little bit of anxiety can keep you safe in dangerous situations. But if that anxiety beast has gotten unruly, you need to get them back to being well-behaved.

People who have abused substances, taken drugs or drank to help them be less anxious will find their emotions have gotten out of control like a house full of unruly children when the parents are away. Using alcohol to sleep or to not feel leaves you exhausted the next day and beyond.

Feelings can tell you things, provide you with the information you need if only you are willing to listen to them. If you grew up around others that did not pay attention to feelings, yours or theirs, or pretended they did not have feelings, you may be at a disadvantage when it comes to managing your emotions.

Learning to manage your emotions, feel what you need to feel but not let your emotions take over complete control of you requires you to develop a better relationship with your feelings.

Here are the three basic steps to learning to make peace with your emotions

Step One – Recognize that you are feeling.

Many people are accustomed to ignoring their emotions. Whether you are recovering from depression, anxiety, substance abuse or any other life problem the first step to integrating feelings into your new recovered life is to become aware that you are feeling something.

Our bodies hold on to emotional feelings even when the mind is trying to ignore them. If you say that someone is a pain in the neck, check your neck. If your stomach is upset, look inside to see if there is someone or something “making you sick to your stomach.”

These body sensations are your nervous system’s way of telling you that something is wrong. Remember that you have lots of nerve cells outside your brain. One estimate places the number of nerve cells outside that brain at over fifty percent. You have nerve cells throughout your body for many reasons. One of those reasons is to convey information, especially emotional information, to the brain.

Learn to recognize that you are feeling something. Look for where in the body that feeling is staying. What physical sensations do you feel? Does this rev you up or shut you down.

Step Two – Name that feeling.

When you do not have a word for something it is more difficult to think about that item. To learn to make emotions your friends you need to learn their names. There is a lot of difference between being sad and being angry. Learn to recognize what you feel when you feel it and then name that feeling.

When you first enter a new field you do not have the vocabulary to talk about that field. New on a job you may find the old timers see and react to things you had not noticed. As you get more familiar with things you learn their names and you respond more readily.

For an example of this take a look at my difficulties in understanding what a friend was talking about when I knew nothing about her area of interest. In this example, I could not remember or talk about something because I did not know enough about it to recognize it when I saw it.

What purple glass? Memory and the expert effect

Step Three – Apply your feeling change tools.

Once you recognize that you are feeling something, are able to describe where in your body you are feeling it and then are able to name that feeling, you are well on your way to learning how to manage that feeling.

There are all sorts of feeling management tools. Many people are required to attend an anger management class because they never learned to follow these steps. If you just suddenly find yourself furiously angry then you are at a loss to know what to do about that anger once you have it. But if you learn to recognize that anger is coming on and how it is affecting you, there are all kinds of tools you can use to avoid excess anger and to manage that anger once it arrives.

Tools that are used for anger management work, most of the time, when they are applied to other feelings. One of the early stage feeling management tools is the process I have described above. Learn to recognize that you have feelings, identify what that feeling is and then decide how you will respond.

Other emotional regulation tools include cognitive tools, changing your thinking and behavioral tools, physical things you can do to manage emotions. For more on tools to manage feelings look at other blog posts here on counselorssoapbox.com and keep an eye out for my book, in progress, which is nearing completion.

Move your feelings from out of control to friends.

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.

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Picture is worth a thousand words? Not always

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

Picture.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Picture or Words?

Sometimes pictures work better than words, but sometimes pictures have a decided disadvantage.

When we need which and how to keep these two memory systems in balance is one of the challenges in building a happy recovered life.

So do you really think a picture is worth a thousand words?

Can you imagine the Declaration of Independence Picture?

OR

What do you think would have been the result of Lincoln unveiling the Gettysburg Picture?

Anyone want to go to court and plead the “Fifth Picture?”

The memory of pictures and the memory of words.

Humans appear to have at least two different memory systems. One, the emotional intuitive system, largely uses emotional sensory data. The other system is the rational word-based system.

Feelings can be conveyed well by pictures, often better than by words. I can write thousands of words about cute but that single picture of the baby or the kitten and puppies, those pictures tell you instantly what cute is at the most basic emotional level.

More complicated things, those need words to map out the concept. Abstracts like ethics and justice those need words.

Some of us get all up in our heads and we forget to make use of our feelings. In a past post, I wrote about the value of intuition based on experiences in making good decisions.

When it comes to figuring out right and wrong those emotional pictures do not seem so dependable. That’s where we need to use our reasoning and thoughts some of the time.

We therapists, like everyone else, struggle with this dichotomy. One school of counseling says you need to talk about your feelings, get in touch with how you feel and have someone genuinely hear what is going on inside you. Those therapists spend a lot of time asking you “How do you feel about that?” Some people really can’t answer that question as they are way out of touch with their feelings.

Other therapists, I included, tend to believe that the way to be most helpful is to help you find the flaws in your thinking, get a new viewpoint and your feelings will begin to change.

A good therapeutic connection is about the relationship and that means we need to provide you with the thing that you need.

People are not required to pick one thinking style over the other. Some people are high in one style, maybe logic, maybe intuition and they are low in the other way of thinking. There are those folks who are high in using both rational thoughts and in intuitive thinking. Other people appear to be low in using both forms of thought.

Which works best for you – trust your instincts or think it through carefully? Are their times you switch up and use the other approach? Or are you one of those people who just try to avoid thinking about things and making decisions period?

In the posts to come, I plan to change it up, offer you some in-the-head logical reasons that you are the way you are and also offer you times to get comfortable with your feelings. Let me know which works for you and what you think of the possibilities using the other approach might open up to you.

Photos courtesy of Flickr

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.

Has intuition gotten a bad name?

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

Picking the right door.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

People who use intuition correctly make better decisions.

In this modern scientific era, it has become conventional wisdom to dismiss intuition as nonsense and to insist that everyone think rationally – whatever rationally means. Recent research tells us that people who have developed their intuition make better decisions much of the time and that just relying on rational explanations does not get you the best answer all the time.

Top business executives and successful entrepreneurs use intuition to get ahead and stay ahead of their competitors.

Psychological tests and particularly the Myers-Brigs personality types distinguish two personality types. Those who decide “in a blink” and those who need time to think. One way of deciding is not necessarily better than the other and people who are able to use both methods do better at many tasks.

To understand the role of intuition in our lives we need to look first at what it is and then at how its proper use might help us have a better and happier life.

The dictionary definition, from an old paper dictionary, includes “To receive or assimilate knowledge by direct perception or comprehension.” This section on defining intuition is exceptionally long and includes a list of ways in which one might receive information: look at or upon, observe, regard, contemplate or consider, immediate perception.

The principal meaning of intuition is those things you know immediately by personal experience as opposed to thinking them based on some theory or second-hand knowledge.

While I may not trust that I get everything a see correctly, the essence of intuition is found in the old adage “seeing is believing.” Which explains why knowledge based on personal experiences including feelings can often be trusted more than the opinions of others including experts who have studied the subject but have no firsthand knowledge of the thing they are talking about.

Intuition, it would appear, is firsthand knowledge based on experiences not only in the head but in all the nerves in the body. We tend to believe that our brain is in our heads. More than half of those nerve cells that process information are outside the head. That feeling in your gut just might be telling you something your head needs to know. We experience these nerves outside our head as feelings or emotions and it turns out that this “felt-sense” is often more accurate than what we might be thinking.

What are some of the advantages of using intuition in making decisions and why might it beat out slow careful deliberation?

Using intuition has several features to recommend it.

1. It is easy, requires no effort to assemble data, analyze that data and deliberate decisions.

2. It is often much faster than deliberative or logical decision-making. By the time you get the research done the market opportunity may be passed and your competitor may be in charge.

3. Using intuition does not require deliberation, committee meetings or extensive testing.

4. We are often more confident in the results of our intuitive decisions because they – just feel right.

Taking the slow deliberative approach does not eliminate mistakes as any marketing research director should be able to tell you. Here are the problems with doing market research to use as a basis for your decisions.

1. The information you will get is often not what you wanted.

2. If you get the facts you want they might not be the ones you need.

3. Fully researching things may take too much time and cost too much

4. Even when you get all the facts, can afford the cost, get the info you were looking for it still might not tell you what you need to do.

The trends in products may take years to develop and a new introduction by a competitor could change the whole market overnight while you are doing research. Try applying this research model to your personal life.

A personality test may tell you if you have things in common with a potential partner but it does not guarantee success in the relationship. Making that cute guy or gal take a 5-hour personality test may just blow the whole deal even before you get to the first date.

There are times in our life, both personal and professional when we just might need to trust our instincts and use that old friend intuition.

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.