Turning the Mind vs Feeling your Feelings with Dr Liz
Hi everyone, Dr. Liz here. I had a great question come in: when do you use ‘turning the mind’ versus when should you feel your feelings? Such a wonderful question. I do DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy), and the major technique in DVT is ‘turning the mind’ as a way to move into more acceptance of what’s going on, to move into changing a feeling that perhaps is super uncomfortable for you or that you feel caught in. So, what do you do first? You feel the feelings. Okay, there’s no way around some feelings. It’s like, ‘Alright, let’s say that you’re super sad about something.’ Yeah, feel the feeling. You’re going to be sad. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to wonder what’s going to happen. It really is. And if you feel like, ‘Okay, I’m feeling the feelings, but now I’m really getting caught in the feeling. Like, I can’t seem to turn my attention to something else, or it feels super overwhelming and I don’t want it to overwhelm me. I want to be able to think about something else for a little while. I want some relief.’ Then, we use ‘turning the mind’.
So, you use that technique to really make a conscious decision to move out of this one feeling into the other feeling of feeling, whatever you decide. But let’s say, feeling better. Okay, I’m assuming that if you want to move out of sadness, you want to feel better. So, you begin to think about something that does make you feel better, something that does bring you joy, and even perhaps do something that brings you joy. And part of that is an active decision to do that, to move out of this feeling into another. I mean, you could apply this to anything. Let’s say you’re super angry about something and it is taking you over, and you would like to feel a little calmer about it, let’s say you’d like to feel more intentional, like you’re making an intentional decision or you’re being discerning, let’s say. Let’s throw that one in there as the opposite of anger.
So, the task there is to acknowledge, ‘Oh, I’m angry. I’m going to feel angry for a little while. Of course, this would make me angry. It would make anyone angry. And now I feel like I can’t move out of this, and I keep thinking about it, and it’s overwhelming me. And let’s say I even have revenge thoughts or something like that may not be so good for me to act on.’ Then you’re like, ‘Okay, I need to turn the mind now.’ So, let me take out those steps and say, ‘Hey, let me make a decision and a conscious choice here to turn my mind to something else that makes me feel calmer, that helps me feel calmer, that helps me feel intentional, that perhaps helps me gain clarity around what action I do want to take and whether that action is effective.’
So, that’s some tips about when to use ‘turning the mind’ versus feeling the feelings. We’re not using ‘turning the mind’ to just get rid of feelings. Okay? We really do want to feel the feelings for some time, but then we’re using it to not get stuck in those. Alright, I hope that makes sense.
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