Emotional Intelligence | Therapy Skills | Advice from a Therapist

“How does that make you feel?”

The classic therapy question that’s so common, it’s become a cliché.

Many of my clients, especially those new to therapy, often ask me, “why do I need to feel my feelings?” In a society that pushes the idea that feelings are inconsequential or even a threat to our functioning, it can be a scary notion to allow them to come. And yet, becoming aware of emotions is the first step in healing.

So how does feeling our feelings actually help us? 

Benefits of Feeling Your Feelings

Increased Self-Awareness

Our feelings provide information on how we are being impacted by our internal and external experiences.

Becoming emotionally aware, allows us to better understand ourselves in relationship to oneself, others, and the world around us. They are guides that often signal what we need or want. When folks have been effective in suppressing feelings it can be confusing and difficult to know what they want.

In other words, uncovering emotions allows us to get clearer on what our needs are.

A long haired woman looks out the window pensively, photographed from behind.

Closer Relationships

It is quite difficult to have deep meaningful relationships without emotions. Emotions provide an opening to our internal world that allows others to step into and share in it. To be able to connect, we need to offer something a person can connect to, which is often our feelings.

Closeness comes from being able to share your emotional world with others.

Being emotionally attuned to oneself, allows us to express our feelings to others which creates the opportunity to build connection.  If we do not know what we or another is feeling, it is difficult to feel close. Empathy is the glue of social connection and is a necessary skill for connecting with yourself and others.

A Black woman with natural hair covers her face, as though stressed out or embarrassed.

Increased Motivation

Emotions are data. Yes, feelings can be ephemeral but they also can direct us to where change is needed, especially as they persist.

Challenging emotions can be important data points that tell us what is no longer serving us. When we are disconnected from our emotional worlds, it becomes harder to know what action needs to be taken or what our actual needs are.

Sitting with feelings of anger, sadness, or doubt can be painful and may be necessary to fully know what is not working as well as can clue us into when we may need support from others.

OK, but how do I feel my emotions?

This is a common question I get from clients. Believe it or not, this skill can take some time and practice to develop.

Perhaps you are someone who didn’t have parents that helped you identify your feelings. Maybe you have experienced trauma, or have been navigating mental illnesses like depression or anxiety. All of these experiences can make it difficult to tune inwards and access your emotional world.

Often it is easier to talk about a feeling than feel it. However, intellectualizing emotions is not the same as feeling them.

This is where therapy can help. Through talk therapy, the therapist can guide you in reflecting inward to identify what feelings may arise, track it in your body, and support you in noticing the various sensations that can arise. This helps you create your own key for your emotional road map.

Learning how to identify and access emotions is a mind and body experience. When our emotional sensations and our understanding of them align then we are able to “process” or integrate the emotion.

How long do I have to feel my feelings?

This can be a difficult question for folks processing painful emotions. Clients often wonder when feeling something challenging becomes “wallowing”. Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. It takes as long as you need.

A young Asian woman sits at her laptop with stressed or anxious feelings, while two coworkers stand near her pointing at her laptop, as though criticizing or micromanaging her.

Often when we first begin to engage with our emotional world there is a heightened intensity to our feelings that can feel overwhelming. When an emotion is fully integrated, it won’t have the same intensity as when it was first uncovered. The intensity of the feeling will shift and be tolerated with more ease. Over time, emotions can be metabolized more comfortably and efficiently.

This can be a time consuming and activating process but with time and patience, it will result in a person being more self-aware, emotionally secure and interpersonally connected.

Feelings can be useful data points that allow one to understand how something is impacting a person. They are our road map to understanding ourselves and our world. And yet, it can be quite difficult to allow ourselves to “sit in a feeling”. It’s much easier to talk about a feeling or intellectualize them rather than fully experiencing an emotion. However, if a feeling is not felt, it will come out in other ways.

About the Author

Amelia Jayanty, PsyD, is a California psychologist at Stella Nova Psychology. She provides online therapy to clients throughout California. Dr. Jayanty specializes in helping burned out professionals and caregivers develop the emotional and relational skills to improve their lives. She’s also passionate about supporting adult children of immigrants, bicultural, and multicultural individuals navigate the gifts and challenges of those experiences. Her clinical expertise includes treatment of  anxiety, depression, transitional stress, identity issues, complex trauma and PTSD.

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Looking for support to build your emotional intelligence or relationship skills? Stella Nova therapists can help you with a range of concerns, from anxiety and depression, to eating disorders and chronic pain, to navigating the relationship stress. 

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