How to Feel Less
Things we experience stimulate our emotions. We react to this stimulation in a variety of ways – sometimes mildly, sometimes strongly. This can be very enjoyable when we are feeling what we call positive emotions, but when we are experiencing what we consider negative emotions we can feel overwhelmed and very uncomfortable. How can we feel less negative emotions? First some thoughts, then a technique on how to feel less.
You can't choose your emotions
Visualising a volume dial can help us understand what's going on. One of the difficulties with emotions is that there isn't a way to ‘dial up' positive emotions and simultaneously ‘dial down' negative emotions – there is only one control that affects both of them. So given that we have a pretty good idea of how we will feel in any given situation, if we are likely to feel negative emotions the question becomes, ‘How can I feel less?'. On the other hand, you might feel you don't feel enough. In that case, have a look at this article's companion piece How to Feel More.
Choose your environment
The first approach to feeling less is to try to not put yourself in situations where you are likely to feel strong negative emotions. This is pretty obvious – in other words, try to not get too overstimulated if you don't think you can cope with it. If this isn't possible, try to remove yourself from situations when you start to feel that your feelings are becoming too much to handle.
When you're overwhelmed
However, there are inevitably times we find ourselves in situations when we become overwhelmed with our feelings – what can we do then? The first thing to understand is that what we are experiencing is our own response to a situation – our feelings aren't passed onto us by another person. Secondly, emotion is strongly connected with movement and expression – more movement and expression means we feel more; less movement and expression means we feel less. In this technique, we do the things that all of us do automatically to restrict feeling, but we do them consciously and with more intensity.
How to feel less
He's a process you can use reduce the amount you feel when you start to get overwhelmed;
- Remember: contract.
- Purse your lips together firmly
- Push your jaw forward and tighten your jaw muscles
- Take shallow breaths
- Make your hands into fists and press your wrists into your thighs
- Press your arms into the sides of your chest
- Tighten your brow and narrow your eyes
Feeling like this likely isn't going to feel natural or comfortable, nor is it going to make you into Mr. Spock – you'll still feel, just less. However, doing it for short periods might help you get through a difficult situation. When you're away from the overwhelming situation and in the clear, you might have to reverse this process and consciously relax your muscles.
– Tim Hill