The Power of Checking In With Your True Feelings

The urge to react when confronted with your own feelings is strong. Resist that habit through the practice of regularly checking in with yourself.

Yesterday I jotted down my feelings every two hours. It was part of a seven-day conscious parenting challenge from Dr. Shefali Tsabary, author of “The Awakened Family.”

She believes that when we pay close attention to our feelings we’re less likely to react to them. We typically react then feel because our emotions often scare us, or make us uncomfortable, and we run from them. However, when we run from them, they change form and come up in all different ways. When we feel them, we don’t react to them in dysfunctional ways.

At 7:44 am I wrote, “I feel energetic. Happy. I feel like I’m a good mom. My sons are both at my legs wanting from me, and I’m not even bothered. We are about to go to the park and library. Life is good.”

Mid-morning I was still whistling a similar happy tune.

Come lunch time I was still peaceful, balanced, and motivated.

All my reflecting doubled my joy by making me so mindful and reflective of it. I was grateful.

Then my husband came home from work. I was so excited to see him, but within minutes I could tell his energy was completely different than mine. He literally (okay, it’s still figuratively) killed my vibe. My cheer was zapped, and I snapped, “What the hell is up?”

He told me he was feeling anxious about my upcoming trip to New Jersey. He didn’t want to be away from the boys and me for more than two weeks, and was upset I proposed such a long trip. He was also upset about some things my dad said, about feeling uncomfortable in our home, and preferring to see us in New Jersey.

As he was releasing his distress, our discussion got heated. He was in control, but intense. I felt myself start to boil, but rather than yell or flee as I usually do, I told myself, “You feel like running away and yelling. You want to get angry and mean. You’re not mad though, you’re just uncomfortable. The storm will pass.” 

And you know what? For the first time, by bringing complete awareness to my feelings, I didn’t react. I didn’t stomp off, get mean, or slam doors. I hung around and talked. We even came to an understanding, and were able to salvage the evening.

I know it wouldn’t have happened like that if I wasn’t in the habit all day of checking in with myself, and being completely in tune with my feelings. I would have created a fight or left the scene, and the whole situation would have been dragged out. Being acutely aware of my emotions was powerful. I stayed in touch with myself, rather than run from the discomfort.

Then today came. It started at 6 a.m. and by 9, I was stir crazy. My toddler was fussy and the house was a mess. Everywhere I looked, there was chaos. I wanted to get out, but the children were still naked, and it seemed like there’d be 540 things to do before reversing hard out of the driveway.

I walked into the kitchen and saw three bowls of water with little bits of fishing lures in them. The floor was soaked, and a blender with the remnants of the inedible concoction was sitting nearby. I started snapping at my four-year-old, “You can’t make a mess and just leave it here! Plus, you shouldn’t even be putting these worms in the blender. It could break it, and Daddy doesn’t want his stuff wasted. I’m upset when you leave a big mess behind.”

He started to cry, “Mommy, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make a mess.”

And that’s when Dr. Shefali’s notion about our reactions never being about others hit me. No one makes us explode, yell, or hit. We are always in control of ourselves, and our negative reactions are never justified by someone else’s behavior. 

I took my son to the chair and said, “Javin, I’m feeling irritable because Asher has been very fussy and the house is messy and I want to go somewhere. Your mess isn’t the only problem. I reacted like that because of how I was already feeling.” He look relieved as he wiped his tears, smiled, and hugged me.

Then I said, “Do you want me to show you how to clean up that mess, and do it together as a team?”

He hopped down from the chair and into the kitchen with his hand in mine. I made a silent vow to continually practice checking in with myself to identify my true feelings before snapping and breaking.