Feel Your Feelings
I once spoke with a client who, when describing turmoil experienced outside of session, told me something like, “But then I remembered what you told me, that I needed to feel my feelings.” Immediately, I interjected, “Wait, I didn’t tell you that. Where’d you get that from?”
Turns out, my ol’ nemesis social media was the culprit for spreading the “feel your feelings” rhetoric that was misattributed to me. In particular, the so-called wellness coaches, gurus, faux psychotherapists, influencers, and content creators of TikTok were to blame.
What does it suggest about a person who perceivably needs permission to feel one’s feelings? Dear reader, do you require a permit to experience emotions and bodily sensations—colloquially known as “feelings”—in any area of your life?
Imagine that you’re sad and I come along saying something like, “You cannot feel sorrow, it isn’t permitted.” Am I somehow able to vanquish your emotional experience?
Suppose I took a hammer and smashed your hand with it, would you need authorization to feel pain? Am I so powerful that I can instantaneously relieve your sensory experience with nothing more than my words?
Presuming you aren’t delusional, I suspect you understand that my permission for you to undergo an emotive or sensory experience isn’t necessary. I don’t have that sort of control over you, nor do I want it.
Even if I were to consider common vernacular as it relates to “feelings”—misappropriating the word to represent thoughts, beliefs, or hunches—you don’t need my endorsement to maintain sporadic thoughts, irrational beliefs, or intuitive guesses. So, why is the trend of approving “feelings” so popular?
I suspect that those who spread inaccurate information in this regard are challenging a strawman position. Perhaps person X grew up being told he couldn’t feel emotions, so influencer Y comes along and grants permission for people like person X to “feel your feelings.”
Maybe this has a cathartic effect—relief from unpleasant emotions which are generated by unhelpful beliefs. Person X believes he shouldn’t feel emotions, influencer Y permits him to experience sorrow, and person X’s unproductive belief is alleviated, thus allowing him to be sad.
Though this type of feel-good rhetoric may seem helpful, it’s nonsense! Person X never needed influencer Y’s permission to emote. What actually results from the relationship between person X and influencer Y is an unamiable hierarchy of power and control, to use a feminist perspective.
Person X learns that he requires the authorization of influencer Y in order to exist in a natural way—that is, to simply experience emotions and sensations. Influencer Y also discovers that this individual has the authority to regulate the emotions of other people.
Person X doesn’t need influencer Y’s permission to emote, neither do you, nor do I. Moreover, I wonder how healthy it is to encourage others to “feel your feelings” when something like rage, hostility, aggression, and the violence influenced by these experiences may arise.
“Feel your feelings” may not be entirely helpful in this regard. While I don’t aim to help people feel better, I try to help them get better.
I do this through the practice of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT). Using this psychotherapeutic technique, I explore with clients the unhelpful beliefs they maintain which lead to unfavorable consequences, such a hostility and punching another person in the face.
Rather than sitting from upon high and granting consent for the commoners beneath me to feel their feelings, I operate from the same plain of existence as my clients—as a fallible human being—while inviting them to consider how irrational beliefs may not serve clients’ interests and goals.
What these clients then choose to do with the information is up to them, because I’m not the source of permission to “feel your feelings.” What do you think about this approach to therapy, dear reader?
If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life—helping you to sharpen your critical thinking skills, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.
As a psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues ranging from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.
At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!
Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW
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