There are three basic ways in which you can relate to your feelings.

The first is to identify with them. People who do this, tend to feel their feelings intensely in their entire body to the point they may become their feelings. They ARE sad, they ARE happy.

The upside of this is that you can tap into a vital source of information about your functioning and relationships, both at work and at home. The downside is that feelings can hijack or overwhelm your system, which can mean getting stuck in a bad vibe or making rash decisions.

The second way to relate to your feelings is to dissociate or to observe them from a tremendous distance. You think about your feelings and conceptualise them to the point they are ideas more than embodied states.

Sometimes this can be useful, for example when shielding yourself from (prolonged) negative states. But the cost is great. You loose touch with yourself and find it increasingly hard to relate to others.

The third way, is to relate to your feelings as if they were an autonomous part within you. Rather than saying “I am sad”, you say “There is sadness within me”. Instead of becoming your anger, you can notice anger inside of you.

This distance gives us the freedom to listen to and respond to our feelings without being controlled by them. Instead, we can relate to our feelings with care, curiosity and acceptance, which makes it far, far easier to deal with negative states like sadness or fear.

It is possible to learn this third approach, for example through meditation, yoga or any other body art. It takes a while to learn, but it is worthwhile. It enriches your relationships, your leadership and your sense of self.

Ilja van Roon

P.S. If you want to learn more about this third approach, treat yourself to a Free Exploration to find out.