3 steps to learn from your feelings

When your feelings feel out of control, swamping you with emotion, particularly when it’s a feeling that keeps coming back over and over, it’s natural to feel completely overwhelmed with zero motivation. But there’s hope. When you allow yourself to learn what your less positive feelings are trying to teach you, you can get your motivation back.

Here are my three suggested steps to learn from your feelings.

This image of “Screen Door” looks like chaos, similar to what it feels like to be overwhelmed by your feelings.

Let go to break free…

When you’re buried under the weight of an overwhelming and recurring feeling like depression*, anger, resentment, or shame, there’s always a part of you that’s worrying about how to break free so you can just stop feeling shitty all the time. You get bogged down in thoughts of what you could do differently, which creates a cycle with the feeling, putting you on a merry-go-round that never stops.

This sensation you’ve got to control how you feel in order to make it stop is why you’re staying stuck.

Let go. Let yourself feel what you feel in all its pain and darkness. Give yourself permission to express your feelings and then express them. As you do, set some parameters so you don’t wallow forever. Give yourself an hour, a day, or a week – you’ll know how much time you need – and when the time is up, move on to the next suggestion.

Step back and observe…

After you’ve given yourself the gift of feeling what you feel, the next step is to step back and observe. This is where you get to pretend to be outside yourself, looking in.

The key here is to question your feelings. You want to inquire why you feel what you feel.

What triggered the emotion?
Why was that the feeling that rose up?
When have you felt that feeling in the past?
What caused those occurrences?
Is there a common link between what you feel now and what you’ve felt in the past? What is it?

Continue to question your feelings until there’s a sensation of release, a moment when it becomes clear why you keep feeling this particular feeling.

You can do this in a number of ways. You can journal, take voice notes, film yourself talking it out, spend time in contemplation via meditation, create the feeling as a tangible object (like I do when I create feelings out of fiber), or work with a coach like me who can help you dig deeper than you may be able to go on your own.

Find the lesson…

As you allow yourself the grace of observation, you’ll find yourself writing, speaking, or creating a record of the feeling and its root.

The “why” will appear and it will reveal the reason you default to depression*, anger, resentment, shame, or some other feeling that isn’t serving you. It will point to a moment from your past when an event happened or words were said that attached to your heart.

This moment may be major or it may be something that seemed inconsequential at the time. This moment is the key. Once you understand the moment that serves as the root, you have found the lesson and can begin the work to learn what it has to teach you.

Short is dumpy…

I have a moment that has served to make me feel motivated and encouraged AND defeated and depressed. A single moment can work to make you feel positive emotion at one point and negative at another. Each time a feeling arises, there may be a new lesson to learn. I used the steps I’ve outlined above to learn what this particular moment needed to teach me.

When I was a pre-teen, my grandmother said something that etched itself into my heart. She was short and had grown rounder with age, post-menopause. I too was short and it was clear I wasn’t going to be a tall adult. So she said to me, “Short is dumpy.” I took it as a warning to watch out as I grew older, delivered with love in the hopes she could prevent me from sharing her fate.

For years, that statement, that moment, worked as motivation and encouragement for staying slender, a short person with a slim frame. Whenever I was tempted to overeat or to make crappy food choices, I would say “short is dumpy” to myself and it worked as weight control.

And then I became post menopausal. Suddenly, no matter what I ate, how much, how little, the type of food, didn’t seem to matter. I’d become dumpy. Every time my pants felt a bit too tight, I felt more defeated and depressed. This spilled over into my work and into my art.

I was ready to change my feelings around my body. I decided to feel the defeat, observe the feeling, and find the lesson. When I did, I found that moment when my grandma warned me of the changes that occur as we age.

And the lesson I needed to learn was to re-frame the statement.

Now I tell myself “short is beautiful” and I am.

Exit through the gift shop…

When you can follow the steps I’ve shared here, you can learn what your feelings are trying to teach you. Start by letting go to break free. Next, step back and observe by questioning the feeling to understand its purpose in being there. Finally, find the lesson the feeling carries so you can begin to learn from it.

If you need support around navigating these steps, drop me a note at hilaryclarkstudios@gmail.com and we’ll set up time to chat.

*Depression is tricky. For some of us, we can manage it on our own and it never grows so severe we’re at risk of self-harm. However, for many others, help is needed to manage depression. If this is you, please do get the professional help you need. The world is better with you in it.


If you’re ready for a private (virtual) showing of my art, you can schedule an appointment here.

To discuss commissioning me to make a textured fiber painting specifically for you or someone you love, please schedule an exploratory commissioning conversation and we’ll see what we can create together.

If you enjoyed this article and found it helpful, please share with the ONE person you know could use it too!

Author: Hilary Clark

Artist, coach, poet, and writer. Creating feelings out of fiber. Aiming for modern renaissance woman. Will likely miss.

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