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When you feel lost, dance. When you feel alone, lonely, and isolated, dance. When you don't know what else to do to feel better, dance.

Recently, I told this to a client who has been suffering from depression for many years. She has many good reasons to be depressed, but she has many more good reasons to let go of the pain that keeps her trapped in a constant state of sadness.

Feelings are a gift that can be turned into a curse if we let them. Chemicals are released into our bloodstream such as Dopamine, Serotonin, Glutamate, and Norepinephrine are a few of the chemicals responsible for triggering emotions. Of course, this is an over-simplification of a very complex process, but one way to look at your emotion responses is by looking at the way you label what is happening inside your body.

As you experience an event, chemicals are released into your blood stream that make you "feel" something. Cognitively, you think that experience needs a label to call the way you are feeling, so you call it fear, lust, hate, or any other name that seems appropriate at the time. That label is based in your personal biases, preferences, expectations, personal beliefs, and how your prior experiences shaped your world view. The label you chose may not be rooted in truth or have any factual basis to support it, but it is how you define that experience and so it becomes your truth. Often, in the light of evidence to the contrary people will hold onto the definitions of their experiences rather than consider an alternative perspective. This is due to a rigid or fixed mindset where other options are not accepted. This perspective is limiting, and personal growth is less likely to take place as they will only seek the things that support this mindset, validating their label for the emotions they feel, justifying their reactions to the feelings, and this further reinforces their belief.

Conversely, if you consider how you are feeling in response to a feeling first, you can change the labels. If you experience something that makes you feel mad, you can reconsider the label and adjust it to a more appropriate label of hurt, frustrated, fearful. When you relabel the emotion to a more precise and accurate label, you can communicate that feeling better in discussion with another. The result is you are truly talking about your feelings and not about the way you are reacting to your feelings. Saying that makes me mad only talks about how I'm wanting to lash out in anger. Saying I'm hurt, tells the other they have possibly violated a boundary, let me down (expectation), or spoke to me harshly (abuse). When the other knows exactly what they did or said, they may recognize they need to apologize, and it can result in better communication and a more positive outcome. When you can accurately explain how you feel, correctly label those feelings, and express those feelings to others, your communication skills will improve, and your relationships will benefit from your efforts.

“The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.”

Carl Jung


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