Our feelings are like a compass. They give us information about ourselves so that we can direct ourselves in a course of action that requires us to either meet a need or a 'want' or they allow us to set necessary boundaries with others for our protection and safety. It is important to learn what we are feeling so we can act in a considered and appropriate way.
Many people develop addictions over time. I am not only talking about chemical but process addictions. Let's look at just a few: sex, smoking, shopping, gossip, gadgets, I-pods, cell phones, fame, reputation, cosmetic surgery, internet, books, validation, exercise, bodybuilding, sport, food, eating disorders, clothes, partying, illness, shoes, workaholism, piercings, tattoos, tanning, study, and so the list goes on. You may say that some of these are not addictions and that is right.
The best definition of an addiction is anything one does repeatedly but as a consequence they become unhappy or that person's life has become unmanageable. If these things are done moderately and do not cause pain then they are not addictions. Addictions also often are acted out so that a person does not have to feel what they are really feeling. Most people are usually not aware of what the feelings are that they are trying to hide because they have done so well at keeping themselves distracted or numb with the addiction from the start. An example in this case might be loneliness, fear, anger, sadness, pain, rejection, disappointment, grief, loss or self loathing .
So it is important to get to know your feelings because by heeding them you can meet your needs. If you avoid, medicate or numb them their energy stays in the body becoming slowly stagnant and then ending up in the worst cases as depression, rage or manifested physically as some people believe as cancer, headaches and tumours.
So if you are ready to do the work then the start begins with the first step. Many of us are already doing this in certain cases. If you feel hunger you put in the action to eat. If you feel tired – your body is telling you to sleep. But it's the subtle ones you may be missing. Developing your awareness is the first step. Most feelings are seen either as pleasurable or unpleasurable. So when you become aware of an emotion that you might normally try to resist or avoid you make a decision to respond to it first by allowing it, accept it, you hold it in your present awareness. The old behaviour remember was resistance or suppression or avoidance. Sometimes the process is known as 'riding the wave.' Like waves feelings can be turbulent, strong and wild or they can be gentle, soft and subtle.
Feeling a feeling is ultimately the fastest way to serenity. Not feeling by any of the means previously suggested stores them in the body. Sometimes if you are on your own it can be helpful to state out loud. 'I am feeling angry.' Or 'Right now I am feeling sad.' Another option is to call a friend that understands this work and describe how you are feeling. In any case you are releasing the energy of the feeling thereby letting it move through you. You can also release the feeling by journaling in a book, going for a walk and most of all remembering to breathe through it. Doing this with intense and uncomfortable feelings is important as it strengthens your resilience and capacity to contain and act on your feelings when necessary. This is especially true of anger and grief.
Once the process has started you will move onto learning to differentiate your feelings. What was once simply anger after some time may be distinguishable as jealousy, rage, hate, hostility, frustration or fury. None of these feelings are 'wrong.' They are just varying shades of anger and as such offer you information about how you need to respond and what specific action is needed in that moment to allow the feeling to pass.
From this new found ability and by practising it you then learn over time what is required in that moment and what action is needed by you to fulfill the need. Does the sadness notify you of a need to stay home and nurture yourself? Does the fear notify you to move away from a situation? Does the feeling of power drive you to achieve a task or to be assertive in a specific situation? From here you will find you are more fully in tune with the world around you and you are more in tune with yourself and your own needs. And then any old 'unprocessed feelings can be worked through too and released over time. After a time you will feel more emotionally freed up. These examples are what constitute 'emotional intelligence.'
If you have been masking your feelings for some time with addictions or addictive behaviours this new process will allow you to see the truth in regard to what's happening for you. If you are lonely, bored, irritated, angry or sad this is an opportunity for you to fine tune your capacity to work more in alignment with your feelings so that you can respond appropriately in any challenging situation.