I remember the first time that I heard "feelings give you information". Or rather I read it, because I had sent a distraught text to my therapist about feelings that were coming up for me, and she simply texted back: Feelings give you information.
I just sat there stunned, turning over this idea in my mind. It opened up a tiny bit of curiosity. I pondered if maybe my feelings weren't enemies or problems to be solved.
I later learned, through the work of Dr. Jonice Web (author of Running on Empty and Running On Empty No More), that if you grew up in a family with low emotional attunement, it's pretty common for feelings like anger, sadness or even joy to feel threatening and shameful.
However, when we tune out or shut down our emotions, we lose access to one of the most critical systems our body has for relaying information.
Feelings aren't dictated by rules and logic. You feel what you feel. They're sensation that we attach thoughts and meaning to.
This is not to say they're made up or worthless. They give us a ton of information about what we need/want/value. But feelings can be wildly different from what it seems like they "should" be.
They can be messy, multiple at once and very different for separate people in the same circumstances.
You don't actually have to ACT on how you feel, thank goodness. (This is sometimes very hard to remember.) And you don't have to feel what anyone else thinks you should.
Feelings point to needs
Feelings are our body's way of sending out signals 'hey, there's something important here, pay attention'. With practice we can start understanding the links between what we feel and what we value, what we believe, what we need.
But they can be really overwhelming - especially if you've spent a long time avoiding or suppressing your emotions! It takes time to build your capacity for feeling your feelings, funny as that may sound.
Drawing is one way I create a little space between myself and my feelings and build that capacity. It helps me process big waves of emotion.
You can try out a drawing journal prompt for yourself when you sign up for my newsletter. Give it a try if you're looking for a new tool for understanding what's going on inside yourself.