August 21, 2018

Why do I react like this?

Quite often we as humans experience emotional reactions that we do not understand. Our emotional system is turned on all the time, while our attention and awareness is more on and off, varying in its vigilance from one minute to the next. This means we ofte find ourselves feeling something without having paid attention to what caused it.

When you feel an emotion that you don’t know why is there, there are especially two things that are useful to do. The first thing is to decide to be curious about why you have responded as you have done. The second is to listen inward to your body to help find the answer.

You can follow the steps below to try to get some more clarity. Try to write down what you think, feel and experience along the way.

Has something happened to trigger the feeling?

→ If yes, go to exercise A below

→ If no, go to exercise B below


Exercise A

1. Before the thing happened to trigger the feeling, how were you feeling? What had happened earlier that day?

2. Describe the situation that triggered the feeling.

3. Imagine that you are in that situation. What is it about the situation that stands out for you?

4. When you imagine yourself in the situation, contact your body and describe the feeling.

5. What was it that was particularly important, painful or upsetting? Be patient and let the answer come to you.

6. What did you need in that situation? What would you have liked to happen?

7. Acknowledge that you felt what you felt and that it was an understandable reaction to an important need.


Exercise B

1. Contact your body and try to really get familiar with the feeling you are struggling to understand.

  • What are the bodily sensations in my body right now, telling me how I feel? Write it down.

2. Explore the feeling!

  • When you get a sense or bodily experience, see if you can keep your attention there. Complete the sentence: It feels like ___________ (sadness, worry, loss, injustice, insecurity, other).  Describe how it feels to be you right now.

3. Identify the situation!

  • What has happened to make you feel that way? If it is unclear to you, try answering what would typically make you feel like this? At what other times have you felt like this? Has anything similar happened recently?

4. Find the need!

  • Regardless of whether you know what triggered the feeling, ask yourself: What is it that this feeling needs?
  • Your answer might be about what you need right now, or it might be about what you need to do in the future. Let your body answer this. That is, don’t try to find a logical solution, but rather feel your needs.

5. Make sense of it!

  • See if you can make sense of your reaction by filling in the gaps in this sentence: “It’s no wonder that I felt ______________, since ________ (happened). What happened affected my need for ______________.”

6. Ending the exercise

  • Regardless of what the exercise led you to, see if you can give yourself a pat on the shoulder for having done the exercise. If you’ve figured out something new, how do you want this to affect you in your life? Take a few seconds to turn your attention back to the room you’re in and get ready to continue your day.