Can you relate to ever wanting to cry “Uncle!” to get out from under a crappy feeling? Perhaps you had a good cry after reading (and re-reading) the “I’m breaking up with you because I’m perfect and you’re not” post-it note that your ex left on your nightstand. Or you visualized your overly-critical boss’s face on the heavy bag that you punched, kicked, elbowed, and grunted at for an hour in boxing class. You probably experienced some temporary relief from the anger, confusion, sadness, or resentment. . . but those feelings came back with a vengeance the next morning. So what gives?
There are two ways to process feelings: recycling or rinsing. We recycle a feeling when we judge or analyze it as we are expressing it. So while we are having that good cry or punching the snot out of that heavy bag, we are simultaneously telling ourselves that we are pathetic or unlovable, feeling sorry for ourselves, and/or repeatedly asking “why me” and searching for some explanation that will free us from the feeling. In short, we go into victim mode and don’t allow ourselves to truly ride out the feeling because we simply want it to go away. But the more we try to suppress a feeling or solve it with our minds, the more it recycles through us again and again.
Conversely, we rinse a feeling when we allow ourselves to experience it without any judgment, analysis, or desire to get out of it. We just feel instead of thinking about the feeling. Resist the temptation to analyze your feelings or the situation that is triggering them. Most importantly, have compassion for yourself the entire time you are going through it. Forgive yourself and anyone else you may be holding judgment against that triggered the feeling. And instead of asking “why?” ask:
- “what can I learn from this person/situation?”
- “how else can I think about this?”
- “what am I responsible for?”
- “what assumptions am I making?”
So when it comes to recycling, save that for your bottles and cans! And remember that it is often by confronting our toughest obstacles that we find our greatest strengths and possibilities – but sometimes we have to dig deep to find them.