Learning to Feel Better


Look at your own life, and see what you have been avoiding. Maybe you have been postponing a difficult conversation with a loved one because it would make you feel uncomfortable. Or maybe you have been avoiding a task at work because it makes you feel stupid and incompetent.

Whatever you have been avoiding, let’s create a context where you get in contact with the dreaded feeling. This means actively seeking a situation where the feeling naturally shows up. But instead of trying to change the emotion, we want to look at it with an attitude of dispassionate curiosity:

Where exactly in your body do you feel this feeling? If it had a voice, what would it say? And when is this feeling especially useful?
You might notice your mind rebelling as you come closer to the feeling. This is OK. Continue moving forward in small steps. You can set a time limit for how long you’re willing to allow yourself to feel the uncomfortable feeling. You might start with 10 seconds, then move to 30 seconds, then to two minutes, and grow further from there.

You can also challenge yourself on a daily basis and experiment with your willingness to experience uncomfortable feelings—each time trying to outdo yourself. As you practice your willingness to open up to uncomfortable emotions, you might notice that a) the power of the uncomfortable feeling grows weaker, while b) your willingness to experience difficult feelings grows stronger. This is great!

But be warned: Don’t use this method of accepting emotions as a new way to avoid feeling uncomfortable, or you will fall back into the mental trap. The solution is not in changing feelings but in opening up to them. The more we open up to our feelings, the more we can do what matters most to us, and the more we can enjoy the full richness that life has to offer, together with “bad” and “good” emotions—come as they may.