As you may or may not know, I struggle with anxiety and depression. Medication, weekly counseling, the whole shabang. The beginning of the new semester brought me a new counselor, and so far I’ve really liked working with her. In our work together we go about discovering more about myself and healing in ways I haven’t before. Mainly we do chakra work and meditations to help me understand my own emotions and energies better. (I will definitely do a post on this sometime, but that is not the point of today’s post.) One of the things I have found rather helpful in my emotional regulation practices is in fact a very small alteration to my internal dialogue.
Normally when feelings arise, especially if they are negative, I respond by internally saying things like “I am anxious,” “I am sad,” and so on and so forth. The issue with phrasing my emotional states in this way is that it does not recognize that those feelings are just that, temporary states. By saying “I am…” I am unconsciously equating my identity to my feelings. For someone who feels a lot of quote unquote “negative” emotions, this practice can be incredibly harmful and self-destructive to the way in which I see myself. I started to believe that anxiety, depression, and guilt were who I was. I ended up feeling worthless and inherently bad. Combine that with my previous campus ministry’s theology of sin and there was a lot of pain in my life.
After a few sessions with my new counselor, I started attempting to switch out my “I am…” statements with “I am feeling…” So far it has done a lot for me. This slight alteration in the way I speak to myself and the focus on noticing my internal realm has created space for my feelings to be feelings and not my identities. While I’m by no means “fixed” or “cured” (Damn it, I’ve got to stop saying toxic things like that. It’s just so ever present in our society’s language surrounding any kind of illness.)…anyways, I am still definitely struggling with anxiety and depression (and now I’m coming to realize codependency as well… more on that later), but this small act of mindfulness has eased things for me.
Now I need to work on saying “I am feeling…at this moment” in order to remind myself that these feelings are transient. So remember folks, you are not what you feel. You are the conscious being that notices your emotions and the comings and goings of said emotions. Do not get too wrapped up in the feels, but rather create a space for them to exist and allow them to both stay as long as they need to and leave when they are ready.