Wright Foundation | November 13, 2018

Stop Holding Back: How to Express Your Feelings

Do you ever feel like you’re holding it all in?

Do you ever feel like you’re holding it all in?

Your jaw clenches, your stomach gets butterflies, you feel tears well up in your eyes. You’re afraid if one more thing happens, you might burst, but you check yourself. After all, feelings are unprofessional, right?

Like many of us, you may have grown up thinking that certain feelings are “bad” or “wrong” and expressing them even worse. One of the dangers of not saying them is that they can later come out at inopportune times or be directed toward the wrong person. But, when expressed responsibly, feelings are one of the most powerful tools you have.


Where Do Feelings Come From?

Where does this idea that certain feelings aren’t okay originate?

Chances are you learned this at a young age. You may have been told that you were “out of control,” “weak,” or “too emotional” if you did express your emotions. You may have been told you were too sensitive or needed to “get it together.”

Between our family and society, we’re taught a lot of “rules” about expressing our emotions.

Now that you are an adult, you can embrace a different truth: there are NO bad feelings, so express them all!

Let’s look at anger, for example. Anger is a strong emotion, but it’s not a mistake. None of your emotions are a mistake—there is wisdom in each of them. Each emotion has encoded within it exactly what you need to deal with a situation.

All your feelings are meant to push you away from pain and drive you toward pleasure. If we look at the purpose behind our feelings, we can recalibrate our emotions.

One of our students related how she was constantly trying to please those around her, especially at work. She wanted everyone to like her. She would hide her anger and frustration because growing up, her dad was often angry. He didn’t deal with it in a healthy way, and she was fearful of becoming like him. So instead, she avoided her anger, hid it, and suppressed it.

When she brought up these feelings, she realized that when she avoided her anger and held it in, she took on extra work. Rather than telling her team she didn’t want to take on an unfair share of the workload, she would simply shoulder it and tell herself that she shouldn’t be angry. Once she got in touch with her anger, she was able to let the employees on her team know it wasn’t okay. She told them she wasn’t satisfied with the situation; it wasn’t making her happy, and it wasn’t working. And once she expressed her feelings, she started getting must better results. Everyone on her team improved because she harnessed her anger toward a result.


Our Early Programming and Emotions

These beliefs about expressing your emotions are part of your early programming, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re what’s best for you or even true.

When discussing your early programming, the network of experiences, feelings, thoughts, and perceptions encoded in your unconscious is called your “matrix.”

Your matrix is a constellation of belief systems set during your early programming as a child. In the first six years of your life, you’re remarkably malleable. Your brain is primed for imagination, discovery, and possibility. That’s why young children see every item as a toy. They’re in a hypnogogic state during those years, easily formed and impressionable. During that time, they learn what’s okay and what’s not.

During your early childhood, within your brain, your neural pathways were being laid down, like a computer’s operating system. Life filters through your matrix, shaping how you see and experience different things. This matrix defines how you view the world and yourself and what beliefs you adhere to.

As you become aware this matrix exists, you may realize certain aspects of it don’t serve you. Some pieces hold you back. (Like that voice telling you, “You’re too much,” or, “you’re too emotional.”) Some pieces of your matrix protected you from being hurt as a child. Maybe you were taught to fear certain situations or believe the world was unsafe. While these beliefs kept you safe when you were younger, they no longer apply to you as an adult, and you can let them go.

As you grow and evolve into the person you hope to become, you must explore your internal makeup. Eventually, you may realize your beliefs aren’t necessarily truths. Your beliefs don’t dictate reality. What you believe may even limit your reality, preventing you from realizing your full potential.

You may think, “This is how it is,” or “this is how I am,” rather than realizing ways to grow and overcome behaviors and beliefs holding us back.

How many times have you been faced with a situation, like speaking out in a meeting or standing up to someone who upset you and thought, “Oh, I could never do that! I’m a nice person!” or “I’m too shy to do that,” or “I shouldn’t feel angry.”

When you don’t express feelings for any reason, you’re limiting yourself. As a result, you may miss opportunities and let successes pass you by.


Recognition Helps Get Out Your Feelings

You may think you have complete control over what goes through your mind. Yet psychologists, neuroscientists, and behaviorists have explored how your unconscious drives your behaviors, whether you like it or not.

Have you ever eaten food when you weren’t hungry? Put off a task for no reason? Have you ever claimed you couldn’t do a job because you believed it wasn’t in you? Have you turned an opportunity down because the “timing didn’t feel right”? Do you gravitate toward routine?

These are all examples of your matrix overriding your logic. You may know the action you’re taking (or not taking) isn’t serving you or moving you forward, but you rely on your default reaction because it feels safe and familiar.

Once you recognize this, it becomes easier to get out your feelings and work through the beliefs about yourself holding you back. When faced with a situation, ask yourself: what am I really feeling? We often encourage our students to simply “call out” the emotion they’re experiencing. Such as “Fear!” or “Frustration!” It seems a little funny at first, but soon awareness takes hold. Calling their feelings aloud to their classmates and friends helps this awareness occur even faster.

If you’re trying to identify your emotions, look at your body—butterflies, sweaty hands, clenched jaw—these are all clues to your feelings. Did your behavior change in response to a comment or a situation? Did you go home and eat a giant piece of cake? Did you feel antsy or apprehensive?

These indicators clue you into what you’re feeling. Now put the words onto those feelings:

“I’m angry.”
“I’m feeling sad.”

“At this moment, I feel joyful.”

When you acknowledge your feelings, almost like magic, it calms your limbic system and brings you back online. By expressing them, you can channel the energy behind the emotions. If you’re sad, you can cry. If you’re angry, you can genuinely feel that anger. Once you feel the emotions, you’re able to complete them. The experience is integrated, and you can move on to the next activity. You don’t need to hang onto the emotions forever. Think of a baby—they cry, express their feelings, and then move on. You can do the same thing!

When you acknowledge how you’re feeling, you explore the why behind your emotions. For example: you’re about to talk to a coworker about a comment that upset you. Be curious about your thoughts and feelings. Why did the comment upset you? What other feelings does it bring up? Are you feeling hurt? Anger? Fear at the prospect of discussing it with your coworker directly?

When our needs (what we often refer to as yearnings) aren’t being met, we often feel fear. We may feel sadness, hurt, even anger over our yearnings that are unfulfilled.

You may tell yourself, “I’m not a confrontational person,” or “I prefer to avoid conflict at any cost.” Once you’ve addressed the fear, you can look at these statements about who you think you are: are you someone who avoids confrontation at any cost? Or is this simply part of your matrix? Is this something you believe about yourself that’s not true?

Exploring the reasons behind your emotions and reactions is the first step to expressing yourself. To get out your feelings, take a deeper look at where they stem.


For more ways to get to know yourself, please visit us at the Wright Foundation. We have many of our courses available for download on our website. Don’t miss out on our special introductory price on these great courses!