The Power of Feeling Feelings

Photo Credit: Gianna Trewavas


There is untapped and tremendous power of feeling feelings with observational awareness, meaning observing the feeling as if you are a scientist watching an animal, and then "feeling the feeling" as energy in the body (namely the belly) with your attention.

However, it is clear that the enduring coping mechanisms of suppressing, ignoring, and venting are not the answer for lasting change, in children or adults. The only real answer for transformation and rewiring in the brain, is awareness.

Linda Graham explains further about how we process social- emotional information as toddlers:

"Any emotional-relational-social experiences that are processed before the brain structures that can process experience consciously are fully mature, before 2 ½ -3 years of age, those experiences are stored only in implicit memory, only outside of awareness. This includes ALL early patterns of attachment. The research has proven “beyond irrefutability” that attachment patterns stabilize in our neural circuitry by 12-18 months of age. They are stable and unconscious before we have any conscious choice in the matter and unless new experiences change them, will remain stable “rules” of relating well into adulthood. Unfortunately, for purposes of attachment, Cozolino suggests that because the amygdala is the structure of both our social emotional processing and is our fear center, the negotiation of relationships and the modulation of fear so overlap, our earliest relating, our earliest implicit experience of self can have a bias toward the negative...With explicit processing, conscious processing, we begin to remember our experiences, including relational experiences from 2 1/2 – 3 years of age on. So, the temporal lobe of the cortex is where memories of attachment experiences are stored, consciously and unconsciously; it’s where they get stuck, and when brought to consciousness, where they can change."

What this means is that until we become fully aware of our thoughts and feelings through observation, we cannot change on a deep inner level. This is the same for 2 year old as it is for 52 year olds. This also means that everything the parent is feeling, consciously and unconsciously is being transmitted to the child. Linda Graham explains, "If the parenting style of the parent becomes Disorganized: if the parent, even temporarily, is fragmented, disorganized, dissociated; or is frightening, bizarre, abusive, traumatizing to the child –Then the attachment style of the child can become Disorganized: the child can become, even temporarily, helpless, paralyzed, fragmented, chaotic dissociated; they cannot focus; they cannot soothe."

Neurobiologist Dr. Dan J. Siegel explains about emotions in children in terms of upstairs and downstairs brain, “One reason big feelings can be so uncomfortable for small children is that they don’t view those emotions as temporary. When your three-year-old erupts in anger because there are no orange Popsicles left in the freezer, his downstairs brain, including the brain stem and amygdala, has sp