Do you give yourself permission to feel?
This might seem like a silly question and your first response might be, “Of course I do. How can I not?”
Yet, you might be lying to yourself.
How many times do you respond to “How are you?” with, “Fine” or “Good” when you are anything but fine or good?
My hand is raised. I can guess that yours is too.
We have been taught that it’s best not to talk about our feelings. It’s best not to feel our feelings either. That they aren’t welcome in conversation. That they aren’t welcome at work. That they aren’t welcome at home.
We are told we are “too sensitive.”
We are told to “buck up.”
We are told, “There’s no need to cry. It’s okay.”
Dr. Marc Brackett, author of “Permission to Feel” is working to undo that teaching because our emotions do matter, and they are not meant to be pushed aside, excused away, or ignored.
They are meant to be felt - even, and perhaps especially, when it’s uncomfortable.
In Dr. Brackett’s book, he introduces us to his RULER approach for getting to know our feelings, and practicing emotional intelligence on a more regular basis.
The R in the acronym stands for RECOGNISING. Are we paying attention to our feelings and emotions? Are we paying attention to the feelings and emotions of others? Are we able to see when and where these shifts occur? Are we so busy DOING that we aren’t allowing ourselves to FEEL?
The U in the acronym stands for UNDERSTANDING. Are we looking underneath the feelings for their true cause, rather than point the finger at the most recent catalyst? Are we aware of the consequences of these feelings, on both ourselves and others?
The L in the acronym stands for LABELLING. Unfortunately, many of us don’t have a diverse literacy when it comes to emotions. We think stress and pressure are the same. We think envy and jealousy are the same. Or guilt and shame. We aren’t able to articulate the difference between frustration and disappointment. Yet, these nuances matter. When we can correctly label our feelings, it is the start to helping them dissipate on their own.
The E in the acronym stands for EXPRESSING. Just as I mentioned above, many of us have been taught not to express our feelings, and instead to suppress them. Yet, when we do so over and over again, it’s like a shaken champagne bottle. Once the cork comes off, it explodes everywhere. I once heard hypnotherapist Marisa Peer say, “Feelings are like gas. Better out than in.” I think Dr. Brackett would agree, though HOW we express our feelings is important. We must do so in a socially constructive way. (Something my children are still learning how to do.)
Finally, the R in the acronym stands for REGULATING. As I mentioned above, correctly labelling our emotions is important, but is only part of the regulation process. Just saying “I feel mad,” doesn’t make the anger go away completely. Instead, we need to practice emotional regulation strategies to support our emotional well-being. Things like meditation, cognitive reframing, and temporary distractions can support us when we really need it. (There are more in the book.)
Now that you have a glimpse into the book Permission to Feel, by Dr. Marc Brackett, let’s go back to this often asked, but often not honestly answered question:
How are you?