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Get to Know the Real You
by Barbara Quick

You might think that among all the things we need to know and recognize in the world, knowing our own feelings would be one of the most elementary.

Explore yourself!
Do You Lead an Extraordinary Life?
Can You Decode Your Dreams?
Are You a Venter?
Are You Selfish?

But the truth is that many of us are taught so systematically in childhood to stuff, mistrust or reject our feelings that we may have a terribly hard time recognizing and honoring them as adults.

Here are our Prime Nine ways to once again become the proud owner of your feelings:

1. The first step is to uncover them.
Your feelings are alive and well, even if they've been stuffed in a secret basement inside you. Muster your support systems before you blow the dust off the trap door and attempt to open it. Be prepared for bad smells, lots of scary cobwebs and maybe a rodent or two.

2. Write until something rings a bell.
A "feeling journal" is a great tool for converting a vague sense of dread, depression or unease into a fully articulated sense of what's bugging you. Sit where you won't be distracted and simply write down whatever thoughts come into your head. Keep writing until something you've written brings tears to your eyes or heightens your emotions in some other way. Follow the thread of your words to a deepened understanding of whatever it is you're going through.

3. Try the "two chairs" exercise if you can't make a decision.
Set up two chairs facing each other. Sit in one chair and lobby for one of your choices. (You can do this out loud by yourself, write your argument down if you feel self-conscious, or get a trusted friend to serve as witness.) Talk until you don't have anything left to say about the issue from that point of view. Then switch chairs and argue as passionately as you can for the other choice. (Add as many chairs as you have options.) If you keep switching chairs and giving each argument your best shot, you'll find yourself "siding" with one of the chairs. That's where your feelings are. Run with them. (If they involve doing harm to yourself or someone else, call a helping professional ASAP.)

4. Use a list of "feeling words" to get a grip on slippery emotions.
Thoughts & Feelings by Matthew McKay, Martha Davis and Patrick Fanning will walk you through this. Use the book's list of feeling words to trigger an emotional response that will help you sort through your feelings (many of which may, at first glance, seem conflicting). Make and keep your own short list of the words you responded to.

5. Make a home for each one of the feelings you've identified.
Write each word from your short list down on a separate piece of paper. Put these where you'll find them during the day (you can post one on a mirror, attach another to your key ring, stick another one to the dashboard of your car). Give each of these feelings a little of your time. Sit with them, chew on them, taste them even if they're bitter. They're all your children, even the ones that are naughty or have unpleasant things sticking out of their nostrils. You don't have to act on all your feelings. But you do have to at least acknowledge them.

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• Practice Mind Yoga
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• The Art of Forgiving, Lewis B. Smedes
• The Depression Workbook, Mary Ellen Copeland
• Excuse Me, Your life is Waiting, Lynn Grabhorn
• Emotions and Beliefs, A.S.R. Manstead

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