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An simple explanation of the cycle of feelings and how they must process

Hello Everyone,

Well I've finally got round to writing my next blog!

Firstly, I would  like to send my apologies for the time delay between my blogs as it is slightly longer at the moment than I would like. 'It's just a feeling' is a project that I work on during my spare time and often I get so caught up in my work commitments and continued studying that sometimes I can find it difficult to find the time to sit quietly and put my reflections and thoughts to paper however, I can assure all it is important to me to blog as much as I can and I have no plans to stop writing my blog.

As I write this piece today, I am hoping that all clients (past and present) as well as followers of It's just a feeling are as well as they can be and are moving forwards in their own journey with anxiety or panic symptoms. This is not an easy journey, however it is completely possible for anyone to achieve a very good quality of life after feeling these symptoms. My own belief is that it really is about getting to know you and working with your feelings rather than focusing on trying to remove them.

This months blog is on a subject that I feel is so important in providing a simple base understanding of feelings. With the benefit of hindsight, I now know how much not understanding the process of what needs to happen to our feelings, can affect anxiety recovery.

In my professional work as therapist now in working practice this simple way of explaining the process of feelings is something that I use often with clients, to create a wider awareness of how current behaviours and perceptions in relation to negative feelings may be affecting their current emotional state and their ability to move forwards. Sometimes it helps to reflect on different perspectives.

I think this basic understanding of feelings is so important, I would like to share it here in a simple way with the aim of creating your own reflective thinking which I think directly argues with the way in which anxiety sufferers follow their natural instinct to keep their fear at bay and in doing so, keep the cycle going. I will also add some illustration.

Ok, here goes, I am hoping that my explanation makes sense!

Each human being has two states of being:

  • A conscious state ( I am aware that right now I am writing this blog)
  • A Sub-Conscious state ( While I am writing the blog, I am breathing- this is happening sub-consciously, its effective but can happen even when I am unaware of it)

When an individual consciously experiences something traumatic or very sad and overwhelming their brain has a unique way of protecting them from the pain or emotion they might feel if it thinks that it is going to be too much to feel it. (Or in the case of anxiety avoidance of feeling it in case the fear overwhelms us!)

It cleverly packs it away in a box at the back of the brain thinking that the box may open again someday but not right now, basically you have a feeling but it feels too much to feel so it kind of hovers around under the surface un-processed, each time the boxes at the back of the brain build accumulating lots of feelings unsolved, not thought about and unprocessed. (In the case of a setback, if anxiety has never really been resolved in the right way leaving us with a fear of its return are these unprocessed feelings key in the underlying fear that this may come back?)

So what needs to happen?

Well simply, what needs to happen is that the feeling is processed by the subconscious, once it is processed it is no longer bothersome and it goes away. This of course may take some work as it involves really going to the place we don't want to go in order to work through our trauma, sadness or anxiety. (But that is ok, we are each in our own process and will each take our own time to do this)

Now this is where there can be problems as lots of unprocessed feelings means that we have lots of suppressed feelings in the background. If we relate this to anxiety for example, one other way of describing anxiety is suppressed feelings!

So how do feelings work?

When we have feelings we feel them consciously and then we present them to the sub-conscious to process.

A simple way to describe the process (also illustrated in the photo above) is to say that what must happen is that each feeling (good or bad)  that we have must do a full circle to process but to do a full process the feeling has to be FELT.

If the feeling is too sad or too scary or too traumatic it only completes a half circle and stores in our brain as an unresolved feeling. We can try and present it to the unconscious but believe it or not it cannot take half circles as it is incapable of processing a negative feeling. Instead, what it does is represents the half circles back to us with a clear message;

'Feel the feeling, complete a full circle and then I can eat it, process it and it will go away'

Unresolved feelings hang around under the surface ready to build up or bother us at a later date, they cause bother and they keep us stuck.

If we then go onto relate all of this to specially to anxiety, it is clear to see where the problem is!

I am sure that anyone who is suffering anxiety would agree that they would rather do anything other than feel the dreadful panicky feeling which is why they think that they are helping themselves by avoiding their fear and using avoidance and different behaviours to keep this at bay when actually they are making it worse.

So how can we produce full circles?

Well, to produce full circles we must stop avoiding our feeling of fear and apply a different approach with a fresh new perspective. We must allow ourselves to feel the fearful feelings that we have been avoiding and go towards them to process them. Our alternative is to keep doing what we are doing and keep the problem or even if we feel well for a time, we will always live in fear of the fear returning.

There really is no other way. Don't avoid valid feelings, go bravely towards them bit by bit and change your perception of how to help yourself.

These feelings are normal for someone going through a difficult time, your body knows how to heal itself, don't sabotage it!

No one has to stay stuck. This is a process, its normal to take a stride forward and a small step back while learning to feel feelings that have been avoided. Do not be hard on yourself, reflect on the process described and think about how this realisation or new perception may alter your quality of life.

I hope that this helps you in your own journey.


Until my next blog

Michelle x