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  • Writer's pictureSara Støback

Willingness: The most helpful skill to process feelings

I wished someone taught me to process my emotions as a child and as a teenager. It would have helped me so much to cope with the challenges I had at that time and those that came in adulthood. We get very little guidance from our parents and from our teachers at school about what we can do when we feel "unpleasant" feelings such as sadness, anger, frustration, etc. When I was growing up I often heard sentences like: "Do not cry" , "If you do not stop crying now I will give you a good reason to cry", "Save your tears until I die". These sentences created more sadness and in some cases fear of the consequences I could get if I did not stop feeling what I felt.

This doesn't mean that parents or teachers are to blame for us not learning how to process our emotions, they did the best they could with what they had. It is up to us now to teach children and teenagers that emotions are not dangerous and that they give us important information about ourselves and what we need.

Like all lessons in our lives, this knowledge came to me after a difficult period in my adult life. I went through a crisis and had so many emotions that I felt I was drowning. Through Zen Coaching, I learned that emotions were alerts that indicated when my needs were not met. I also learned to know them in my body with curiosity instead of judgment, avoidance and struggle. I learned how a very strong and uncomfortable feeling could be diluted in a few minutes. This can be called "willingness" or saying "Yes" to what is. It's like a switch that turns off the fight and turns on peace. When you learn to say "Yes" to what is happening in this moment, all the energy you use to fight your emotions can be used to create the life you want.

What you resist persist

We could wish not to feel unpleasant feelings, but we know that this is not possible. Emotions, body sensations and thoughts are part of who we are. They are a beautiful part of being alive. They are essential for our ability to live, love, connect and to care .

Let us compare unpleasant feelings with a heavy weight. The weight represents unpleasant feelings such as sadness, anxiety or chronic pain. When we try to avoid them, ignore them, ask ourselves "why me?" is equivalent to keeping the weight on a straight arm. How long do you think you can keep it that way? You can try as best you can, use lots of energy, willpower, but sooner or later you will get tired. If you do not put the heavy weight down you will eventually collapse, right?

People with depression, anxiety, chronic pain, tinnitus or muscle tension are usually people who fight hardest against unpleasant emotions. They use lots of energy and attention to fight their emotions, but in the end this fight backfire and they end up exhausted and hopeless.

Zen Coaching

Zen Coaching teaches you how to deal with unpleasant feelings. To keep them close to you instead of away from you (at arm's length) is something that can make them lighter and sometimes even disappear completely. The skill is to learn to say "Yes" to what shows up. Sometimes we can say yes to a bad feeling and other times we may feel resistance to it, and then we can say yes to the resistance. It's not about pushing yourself to accept something, it's about being an active witness to what shows up.

I have witnessed how clients can go from being desperate and hopeless to feeling peace and hope again. Willingness means to observe what shows up in you with compassion, without judgment or criticism. It is a choice to allow yourself to feel what you feel, think and sense in your body.

This skill can be learned through Zen Coaching. There are many who say that mindfulness and meditation are fundamental to working with emotions and it is true, it has been shown that they are very helpful. But in my experience, willingness is the key to why mindfulness works. It is the act of saying "YES" to what emerges that makes the difference.

It is important to learn to describe your feelings instead of condemning them. When we begin to label our emotions as "good emotions" and "bad emotions", we lose perspective on what those emotions are trying to tell us. Unpleasant feelings are the ones that tell you what you need. Which of your main needs, such as, love, respect, being seen, etc are not met and they are the ones that hold the key to achieving what you need.

The first step is to stop. Stop and breathe so you can begin to feel what is alive inside you, to come back to the present moment. Then your can start to observe your emotions, thoughts and body sensations. This process calms our mind and we can be in touch with the qualities of your true self such as peace, freedom and joy. Observing a problem from this place instead of from the chaos can give us a completely different perspective than the one we had. We can begin to see solutions and meaning with our experience at this moment in our lives.

The starting point of Zen Coaching lies in our desire to be who we really are, to be genuine, real and sincere with ourselves and others. Zen Coaching focuses on achieving our external goals - a key characteristic of traditional coaching - but with a deeper internal focus.

Do you want to learn to handle and process your emotions without them taking over you? Contact me for more information or schedule an appointment here.


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