Changing By Changing Your Feelings About Your Feelings

TangleIf you have been a human being for any length of time you have probably noticed that your emotions are complicated.

Feelings rarely come one at a time, usually we experience a complex cocktail of feelings that make up our emotional life.

If we just had one feeling at a time perhaps life would be simpler, softening emotional distress using EFT would certainly be easier: one distressing feeling, a few rounds of tapping, job done!

But most people don’t just feel one feeling at a time. We usually have a tangled collection of feelings. Each of these distressing feelings needs to be addressed with tapping to be soothed.

This is why most distressing emotions require more than a few rounds of tapping.

Some emotions can be very difficult to shift with tapping (or anything else).

We have our original feelings: sadness, anger, disgust, fear, etc, stirred up in response to a challenging situation, and we often have distressing feelings about the original feeling.

Here’s a thought experiment that explores the difference:

  1. Imagine feeling sad about something – notice what this experience is like.
  2. Shake off that feeling.
  3. Now imagine feeling sad and feeling critical of that sadness – notice what this experience is like.
  4. Shake off those feelings.
  5. Now imagine feeling sad and feeling compassionate towards that sadness – notice what this experience is like.
  6. Shake off those feelings.

Those experiences are all probably very different. I imagine that feeling critical of the sadness was a particularly unpleasant combination.

These ‘meta-feelings’, feelings about feelings, add texture to the original feeling and can even act as a glue which holds the original feelings in place making them difficult to tap out. If you ever had to do a lot of rounds of EFT to soothe a ‘simple’ feeling that you expected would have soothed quickly and easily, it might be helpful to explore the feelings about that ‘simple’ feeling.

Most of the time we just notice how we feel about something, not how we feel about feeling something, but being able to identify and work with feelings about our feelings can make a big difference to our emotional lives.

Working With Feelings About The Feelings

  1. Pick a problematic situation. Important: if this situation involves bottomless grief, overwhelming shame or great fear it’s better to choose a less difficult situation.
  2. Make a list of the feelings that situation brings to mind.
  3. Give each feeling a SUDs rating from 0-10.
  4. Choose the feeling with the strongest SUDs scale
  5. Ask yourself: “How do you feel about [that feeling]?”
    1. Write down the feeling, then ask “What else do you feel about [that feeling]?”. Make sure to record each feeling that comes to mind, the important ones will be sorted out later.
    2. Continue to ask “What else do you feel about [that feeling]”? and record the feelings until no more feelings are available.
  6. Go through the list of feelings about [that feeling] giving each a SUDs score of its own.
  7. Tap out the highest scoring feeling about [that feeling]. “Even though I feel [this feeling] about feeling [that feeling]” etc.
  8. Review the list of feelings about [that feeling].
    1. Tap out the next most intense feeling about [that feeling].
    2. Repeat this process until all the feelings about [that feeling] have been neutralised.
  9. How strong is the SUDs rating of the original feeling now? If any strength is left in that feeling reduce it by tapping it out.
  10. Review the list of feelings about the situation, if there is a strong emotional charge on any other of those feelings, repeat the process until the feelings about the feelings have been neutralised.
  11. How do you feel about the original problem now?

An example:

Let’s say I’m struggling to get some work done.

When I pay attention to how I feel about that situation, I am aware that I feel unmotivated, dull, and sleepy.

When I work out the strength of those feelings (SUDs) unmotivated is 8 out of 10, dull is 6 out of 10 and sleepy is 3 out of ten.

Obviously feeling unmotivated is the strongest so I ask myself “How do I feel about feeling unmotivated?”. I get the following list:

  • apathetic
  • angry
  • guilty
  • hopeless
  • ashamed
  • resentful

Going through the list assessing the SUDs of each of the feelings about feeling unmotivated I get the following scores:

  • apathetic 1/10
  • angry 8/10
  • guilty 1/10
  • hopeless 0/10
  • ashamed 6/10
  • resentful 1/10

Obviously feeling ‘angry about feeling unmotivated’ and feeling ‘ashamed about feeling unmotivated’ are the meta-feelings with biggest charge.

I tap on those meta-feelings

Using “Even though I feel angry about feeling unmotivated, I deeply and completely accept myself” as the setup phrase and “I feel angry about feeling unmotivated” I tap out the anger.

And, using “Even though I feel ashamed about feeling unmotivated, I deeply and completely accept myself” as the setup phrase and “I feel ashamed about feeling unmotivated” I tap out the shame.

Even though I haven’t tapped on it, I find that the unmotivated feeling has dropped to a 4 and easily yields to a few rounds of ‘standard’ EFT.

Please try out this process and I’d love to hear about your experiences using it.

You don’t need to use this formal process to work with the feelings about your feelings, you can easily ask yourself (or someone you are working with): “How do you feel about that feeling?” to find more ways to work with distressing feelings.

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