Notes and Mentions
TalkSpace Telehealth Counseling
“Why Feeling Our Feelings Makes Us Stronger” by Megan Miller
Feelings Inventory from the Center for Nonviolent Communication
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Serena: Hey Everyone, I’m Serena.
Tina: And I’m Tina and we are the Mental Health Mamas.
Serena: Welcome to No Need to Explain, we are so glad you’re here.
Tina: First, as always, a quick disclaimer.
Serena: We come to you NOT as mental health professionals or experts in the field, but rather as the parents of kids who struggle with their emotional health.
Tina: If you or someone you love is experiencing a mental health crisis, please seek professional support. You’ll find a variety of resources in our show notes and on our website, NoNeedToExplainPodcast.com.
Serena: Tina, how are you feeling today?
Tina: I am feeling energized and pretty well rested and in need of a little bit of sunshine. How are you feeling today, Serena?
Serena: Hmm. I could echo all of that. I would say I’m feeling caffeinated. Yeah, it’s kind of a gray day, I definitely could use some sunshine and I’m feeling grateful today.
Tina: Yeah, we’re very intentional about greeting each other in this way. It’s often how we start our meetings with one another and other families that we work with. Although it may seem a bit touchy-feely, there are some really good reasons that we do this. So, let me back up for a minute and say that this is something that we have learned along our journey from a wise mentor. Her expertise is based in social work and counseling and when she first introduced this concept….I’m going to be very frank here...it was weird. We live in a world that doesn’t really want a true answer to a question we often ask each other every day. How are you? How are you doing? No one really expects a true answer to that question right, Serena?
Serena: Right. I’m thinking about how often we respond to that question with a “fine” or a “good”? And of course, neither of those words are feelings, yet it’s the normal and expected answer.
Tina: So when she first asked us how we were feeling, we needed some real thought and prompting. Even now, we sometimes refer to our feelings list when we need some good ideas. We will include a few examples of these lists in our show notes. And often we notice and tune into those people we care about. On a good day, we slow down, we notice perhaps sadness, frustration, even happiness. It’s a rare occasion when I would stop and notice something I was feeling in myself. Does that make sense?
Serena: Yes, absolutely. For me, the feelings check in serves as a reminder that it’s important to check in with myself too and to be aware of how I’m feeling as well as those around me.
Tina: It can really allow us to be more gentle with ourselves and others and might even help us move out of a feeling that we are not really liking.
Serena: Mmhm. Yeah. So, a really great example of this actually happened last month at one of our online parent chats. One of the participants shared, with Tina and I, some really difficult news before anyone else arrived. It was clear that this was not something that this person wanted to share with the rest of the group. So, we started our meeting with a feelings check-in which we often do and all this person had to do was share two or three feeling words and the group totally understood. So, to refer to our podcast title, there was No Need to Explain.
Tina: Absolutely. No Need to Explain. Because in this safe space that we’ve created, there is such a respectful vibe that everyone is asked and everyone is honest about how they feel.
Serena: Mmhm. It’s really important to feel safe when sharing your feelings. When someone we don’t know, someone we don’t know well asks us how we’re doing, it’s likely not the time to share our life-story. It’s possible that they really want to know how you’re doing, but more than likely they’re just being polite, as we do, right? And sharing your actual feelings with them won’t get your own needs met. Instead, I would suggest you reach out to someone you feel safe sharing your real feelings with.
Tina: Sure, like any trusted person or group of people that you know.
Serena: Exactly. So, there are some really great books out there about getting in touch with our feelings and supporting our kids in this as well. One that I read recently is called Permission to Feel by Marc Brackett. So, Dr. Brackett is the Founder and Director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and the lead developer of the RULER approach to emotions. This is a tool used with kids in school to develop social emotional intelligence. Some of you listening might be familiar with this. Perhaps your kids are using it in school. We’re going to include links in our podcast notes for anyone who would like to dig into this more, into this information, but essentially, RULER is a method of identifying our emotions and managing them.
Tina: Mmhm. So I will go through each of the letters in RULER. And no need for pen and paper. We will include these in the notes. So,
R stands for Recognizing emotions in oneself and others.
U is for Understanding the causes and consequences of emotions.
L: Labeling emotions with a nuanced vocabulary.
E stands for Expressing emotions in accordance with cultural norms and social context.
R is Regulating emotions with helpful strategies.
To illustrate this, maybe we work through an example together.
Serena: Yeah, let’s do it.
Tina: So, this may or may not have really happened in my life. Ok so I have just left a doctor’s appointment. My child was struggling with stomach aches and headaches and me being me, I shared that she was struggling to get to schools well. Instead of discussing the physical symptoms as perhaps connected to her mental health, the doctor immediately jumped to medicating my child because, “It was all in her head not in her body.” I left, pretty promptly, feeling so many feels. I was, let’s just name a few, angry. I honestly found myself spiraling as I recounted the story to my husband. And at this point in my journey, I didn’t have RULER! I didn’t appreciate the need to recognize my emotions.
Serena: So let’s go through the RULER in, for this particular situation.
Tina: OK so R, I’ve recognized that I have some feels.
Serena: Exactly. So, next is U, understanding the causes of the emotions. And it sounds like you were having lots of feelings because of your encounter with the doctor. So, next comes L, labeling those emotions.
Tina: So, as I said, I was certainly feeling angry and perhaps I was also feeling disappointed in this doctor I had for so long trusted and feeling hurt that she didn’t seem to want to hear our perspective.
Serena: And then comes E, expressing the emotions in an environmentally appropriate way.
Tina: Hmm. So this is going to surprise you Serena, but, I’m a talker and so I talked and talked and talked to my husband about the situation because at that point, you know I didn’t really have other people who understood and I, yeah, I mean I think I was appropriate, for sure. But you might have something different to say about that but I think I was appropriate.
Serena: Yeah, well so, in raising kids, one of the things I’ve said many many times when my kids were toddlers (and to my teenagers as well) is, it’s OK to feel angry...it’s not OK to, fill in the blank. So, maybe hit or destroy something or whatever. If you had yelled at the doctor, then that would not have been an appropriate response. But talking it out with your husband, even maybe yelling at your husband, that’s probably OK, right?
Tina: Mmm. Yeah.
Serena: Yeah, so what about the R? How did you find ways to regulate or work through your emotions?
Tina: Ok so at this time in my life, taking good care of me and finding strategies to help myself were pretty non existent. I guess, looking back, I flew into research mode and tried my best to read about managing these situations...you know, parents strategies to help my kid. Certainly nothing to help myself. And again looking back, I guess that knowledge is power and I did feel some relief from gaining some more knowledge.
Serena: Yeah, absolutely! So, in our very first podcast episode we talked about some of the feelings that can come up for us, as parents, specifically as parents raising a child who might struggle with their emotional health. These are not, what we might refer to as, “nice” feelings. So Tina, could you share some of the feelings that come up for you? And I think we mentioned a few a moment ago.
Tina: I have certainly felt guilt and anger and worry and confusion. I sometimes have felt uncomfortable, mostly at how the world was responding to our family. I sometimes felt hopeless, discouraged, and many times, overwhelmed and sad.
Serena: Mmhm. So, I’m going to make a leap, probably not much of a leap, that none of those feelings were feelings that you wanted to be feeling.
Tina: Not even one! No! And yet...feeling all of the feels...no matter how hard is important or at least important to acknowledge.
Serena: Right. They don’t feel good and sometimes I think that we try to ignore them or pretend that we don’t really feel these things.
Tina: Yes. And I think that it’s a bit societal, kind of trained into us, that feeling the feels is somehow not OK. As kids perhaps you were told to get over it or suck it up when you were feeling adverse feelings. It seems very deep seeded and perhaps more so for boys in our world?
Serena: So, as you know, I have three girls and while we cared for two little boys for almost two years, I don’t have the experience of raising boys. Can you say a little more about this, Tina?
Tina: Well I guess I’m referring more to the conservative generations of folks who didn’t really believe that boys could express their emotions in the same way that I was freely allowed to. You know, the whole “boys don’t cry” thing.
Serena: Right. Yeah. I think that all of us hear messages about how we’re “supposed” to feel. And so I’m going to take this moment to remind you that ALL feelings are valid.
Serena: Yeah, so as parents, in my experience, those feelings of guilt and anger and frustration and hopelessness? It doesn’t feel like we’re allowed to feel them. We’re expected to stuff them down and just get on with our parenting. And of course, I speak about this from my own perspective and my own experiences. I’m very aware that our listeners may have a different experience, but I think that most of us can relate to the idea of having a feeling that somehow seems unacceptable.
Tina: Right, like the, “Don’t cry or I’ll give you something to cry about!”
Serena: Yes. And this is where I think we have a choice. We could ignore the feelings we don’t like or pretend like we don’t feel them.
Tina: Right. Except they are still there. They don’t leave on their own. And while it’s hard work to stop, recognize the feeling and, as I said before, move into a more comfortable feeling...it is so worth it not to get stuck in that feeling.
Serena: Right. I really think we have to pay attention to those feelings in order to move on. Does that make sense?
Tina: Yeah, total sense. There’s a value in being present in that moment and feeling the feeling no matter what it is. All feelings valid, right? Please know that this is not easy and it’s not a quick process.
Serena: It’s also not linear. It makes me think of the comic Family Circus and there was the little boy named Billy. And his mom would ask him to go from point A to point B and instead he would have the most amazing adventure on the way...over, under, through, around...here, there and everywhere. I think it’s kind of like that. It’s kind of all over the place.
Tina: An adventure! I love the reframing! Everything is always an adventure! And that does remind me of my grandma. She always used to cut out the Family Circus from the paper. So, I also wanted to share some quotes from an article I read on the website TalkSpace. It’s a web-based telehealth counseling site that actually was established by Michael Phelps, the swimmer who struggles with his mental health. The article is called, “Why Feeling Our Feelings Make Us Stronger” and again we’ll include this link in the notes.
The author, Megan Miller writes, “While it would be super convenient to numb all [what she calls] the yucky ones [the feelings], we’d never get to know the continuum that helps us to know the good ones, too. Without sadness, our joys would be so much less joyful! It’s this very range of emotions that colors every human experience we have — it’s an essential part of who we are!”
Serena: Yeah, exactly. So, not to be too cheesy, but you know the saying, we can’t have rainbows without rain or waterfalls and I love waterfalls!
Tina: Yes you do and we have a lot of them around here! So the same author also writes, “suppressing feelings that are triggered by negative experiences can have a serious impact on our mental health. Risk of challenges such as anxiety and depression are known to increase with suppressed emotions, along with a litany of physiological changes, too.”
And this same author rounds out the article with an important observation, “Exposing ourselves to vulnerability opens us up to a great number of things, not the least of which is the opportunity to strengthen human connections. Unpacking our emotions and sharing what they have taught us with others can feel uncomfortable or scary, but over time and with people we trust, this process allows us to connect on a deeper, more human level with those around us.” And that kind of brings us back to the very beginning of this episode! Tuning in to how we feel, stopping to take that inventory is SO very important to our wellness.
Serena: Yes, I think we’ve come full circle to identifying our feelings and sharing them with people we trust! So I’m gonna bring us back to the story we shared at the beginning of the episode about our online parent group. We not only do a feelings check-in at the beginning of the session, but then we often do one at the end as well just to see if things have shifted for people. In the session we referred to, the feelings shared at the beginning were stressed, blah, overwhelmed, scared, uncertain, worried, unsure, discombobulated, and in pain. So Tina, can you share what the feelings were by the end of the session?
Tina: They were certainly more positive and hopeful! Relaxed, connected, encouraged, strengthened, lighter, loved, hopeful, grateful, calmer. We cannot make this stuff up.
Serena: Yeah, this is the power of allowing people the space to feel all the feels, providing a safe space to talk and connect with others who get you and that is where the magic happens.
Tina: So podcast friends, please know the importance of feeling all of your feelings! If you need a safe space to put those feelings, to share them with people who get you, please send us a message! You can write to us from the link on our website NoNeedToExplainPodcast.com.
Serena: We are so very grateful to all of you for listening and supporting us. You can help us out by visiting Apple podcasts, leaving us a review, subscribing and sharing with others.
Tina: And this is your gentle reminder to take good care of yourself while you are also taking care of your people.
Serena: Thanks for listening!