Rules around Feelings

I want to talk about feelings. That may sound very cliche coming from a therapist. For the sake of ease, I am going to talk about what I consider the 5 core emotions- mad, sad, scared, glad, and sexual. I think that everyone has access to all of these, for me it is a question if you allow yourself to feel them all.

What are the stories you have heard about feelings? What emotions are you not allowed to feel? This may be something that was said explicitly or passed down non-verbally. For example, “boys don’t cry” or “girls should be nice” may sound familiar. The non verbal may be a look, a shaking of the head, or what I consider the “death look”–the look from a parent or teacher that says louder than words, “Cut it out NOW.” There are certain feelings that are labeled as bad or negative. I hear that quite often about feelings in my practice that anger is not okay yet frustration is. In my family anger was not allowed. I heard directly, “Don’t be angry, it only eats up the person who is feeling angry and not the person you are angry at.” Scared is also not okay yet worried or anxious is okay. Boys on the playground or even older may say something to the effect of don’t be a sissy, a wuss, or other vulgur terms. And the idea of feeling sexual is often taboo.

When I say sexual feelings I am not referring to sex. Sex is an action and feeling sexual is just that, a feeling. When these get confused people end up making rules in order to feel safe and secure. Sexual feelings do not have to lead to sex. When do you allow yourself to feel sexual?
Is it only in a certain location with certain parameters? The bedroom with the lights off or on, in front of the computer watching porn, in a private location or something more public, only at night.
Or with a certain person? Your spouse/ partner/girlfriend or boyfriend, a complete stranger, someone you met on a certain site, not actually in person- on-line or phone.
Or when certain people are or are not around? The kids have to be in bed, never by yourself, if it is by yourself no other people can be around.
If you are in a relationship, are there different rules or stories than when you are single? What can you do if you are in relationship versus single. Are there things you think you lose or gain by being in a relationship? Can you feel sexual with other people if are not in an intimate relationship with them? And do you allow that to be okay or not?

Essentially I am asking what rules you have about feelings. If you are interested in continuing exploration with this, read on. Notice what feelings you do feel and what feelings are harder to access. Are you someone who says, “I never feel angry, that is just something I don’t feel.” Notice if there are stories or rules around what you should and should not be feeling.

I would love to hear feedback about what you discover.

Also published on Portland Health Alliance

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