Feelings are an important aspect of our lives but the trouble is many of us have been brought up to ignore and override feelings. Childhood messages have a great role in contributing to this state of mind. We feel guilty if we express our feelings of anger, shame, guilt and annoyance. We are afraid that we will hurt the feelings of others due to being people pleaser. The result of this kind of suppression is often anxiety, phobias, depression and restlessness….adopting a negative and pessimistic outlook of life. Suppressed feelings lead to anxiety.

Feelings are also influenced by our thoughts and perceptions. The way you perceive an event or interpret a situation gives rise to corresponding feelings. Feelings are also affected by stress. Automatic thoughts determine our state of mind. If you perceive a person as totally unreasonable, and selfish, you might feel anger towards this person. If you are jealous or envious of the other person, it will give rise to feelings of jealousy and envy and you will be inclined to react accordingly towards this person when you interact.

Feelings give you energy. If you are in touch with your feelings and can express them, you will feel more energetic. However, when you are unaware of your feelings, you may feel lethargic, numb, tired, or depressed.

Feelings are never right or wrong. They simply exist. The perception and judgment can be wrong or right, valid or invalid but feelings are simply there. Once you learn how to express them, you will feel better. It is not good to evaluate others or yourself on the basis of feelings because we are all entitled to have feelings. All human beings experience emotions like anger, envy, jealousy, sadness, frustration, and irritation.

Worrier type people are always insecure and worry about bad things happening to them. Their self talk is always, “what If?” type and this gives rise to anxiety. Sometimes when we hang on to our feelings of sadness or anger for a long time without venting it, we get depressed. When we vent our feelings by crying and talking about it, we feel relieved. We also feel psychosomatic symptoms when we suppress our feelings for a long time. Symptoms such as headaches, ulcers, blood pressure, asthma, cardiac problems could be due to withheld feelings too. Learning to identify your feelings, means you can reduce the symptoms of psychosomatic illnesses.

How to express your feelings

  1. Talk it Out: It is very therapeutic to share your feelings with a trustworthy person, like a friend, counsellor, or a support person. They should be the person who are willing to listen to your feelings without evaluating you and who encourage you to let you express feelings and not just share them.
  2. Write it out: Sometimes it is helpful to make a feeling journal and vent your feelings in a written manner. It is good to periodically review this journal and see if there is a pattern emerging. This is a very healthy outlet of your feelings.
  3. Discharging Sadness: When you are withholding your sadness, it can cause a heavy load on your body and mind. It is relevant to ask questions such as :Do I ever cry?, Do I cry because someone hurt me, or I am lonely or scared? Sometimes, we feel sad but we have trouble shedding tears. Listen to some evocative music, watch an emotional movie or read stuff to surface the feelings of sadness and be able to shed tears. It is important to vent your sadness and not hold it in because the result will be more sadness and anger towards who has hurt you.
  4. Discharging Anger: Anger is the most pervasive emotion that leads to anxiety. Anger has a range from mild irritation on one end to extreme rage, on the other side of the continuum.

Withheld anger can cause a person to become anxiety prone and also cause symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. When you are frustrated and angry, you become more preoccupied with your obsessions and phobias but often you are unaware of these angry feelings.

Those who are, by nature, a people pleaser, are prone to having anxiety disorders. They always want to present themselves as pleasant and nice. They are also dependent on relationships with significant others. Outward expression of feelings can risk the relationship of phobic people so they tend to suppress their anger. Also, it is important to note that people who are prone to anxiety have a strong need to control so when they feel threatened by a sense of loss of control, they give in to their anger and it frightens them. In addition, self defeating behaviors, such as excessive criticism, discounting the positives and focusing on the negative aspects of the situation, passive aggressive behaviors , blaming others, and worries about the future instead of enjoying life could also be signs of withholding anger.

Reference: Anxiety and Phobia Workbook, by Edmund J. Bourne, New Harbinger Publication, 2005