Big feelings and little feelings

Little feelings happen when we a sick dog and feel a little sad, someone says a joke and we feel happy, watch a scary TV show and feel a bit scared, hear a story about injustice on TV and feel a bit angry. We have many of these each day that come and go.

Every now and then we will have a big feeling.

Someone openly insults us in public humiliating us and we feel shame and anger, we are in a car accident and feel scare,  we are in a bank robbery and feel terror, our dog of 15 years dies and we feel great sadness.

These are much less common than small feelings but they do happen in all our lives from time to time.

Feeling size Jpeg

Sometimes you hear people say if you feel sad just don’t think about it and it will go away. Or if you feel anger just count to 10 and go play some tennis. These are good solutions to small feelings and maybe even some medium feelings. This is where CBT can be most useful and all the strategies they have for coping with feelings.

However with big feelings these are not enough and this is where approaches like CBT fall into disrepute. You can’t just think big feelings away such as by creating new positive self statements or visualising positive events. You can’t just distract yourself from them by thinking about something else. If you do then they keep coming back. You can’t just wait for the passage of time to make the feelings go away.

With big feelings there needs to be some kind of catharsis and involve other people in its resolution often a number of times for the feeling to be worked through

If you find yourself having repetitive dreams about an event then probably a big feeling is attached to it

If you find yourself avoiding places were an event occurred then probably a big feeling is attached to it

If you find yourself repetitively thinking about an event spontaneously then probably a big feeling is attached to it

Caravan 2

Over time these will tend to reduce but that does not mean the big feeling has gone away, instead they will tend to just move into the background and cause trouble.

After an event where a big feeling happens the person may find they get insomnia, they also discover that if  they drink alcohol then they can sleep better so they start drinking.

Or if someone is very sad about the loss of a loved one, over time that will reduce but then they find them selves getting depressed.

Big feelings do not just go away over time, they must be worked through unlike little feelings have to be. Simple cognitive exercises can usually deal with little feelings and some medium feelings but not the big feelings. There needs to be catharsis of some kind and others involved in helping the person resolve the big feelings. Usually there needs to be the cathartic expression of big feelings multiple times for such feelings to be resolved.

Creative feeling picture

Of course big feelings do occur in childhood, sometimes many of them occur and many are not dealt with or resolved as the child cannot articulate its need to do so. Indeed many adults are not able to do that. Much of the psychotherapeutic process is resolving these big feelings which occurred in childhood.

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