Feeling the Feeling | Justin Lioi, LCSW - Brooklyn, NY

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Therapy is at its best when you’re able to not only talk about your feelings but to start actually feeling the feeling. And you do this in the safe, nonjudgmental presence of your counselor. Maybe that doesn’t make a lot of sense because so many guys come to me saying they have a partner that’s continually asking them to “Tell me what you feel.” So they do. They say, “I’m angry.” or “I’m upset.” They think that’s the whole ballgame.

The thing is, that’s just the beginning. The problem may start with how we teach feelings to kids. Hopefully, the idea is to help kids label feelings. “You’re really mad right now.” “I think you really miss mommy and daddy and you’re sad.”

That’s good because it helps kids put a word to an overwhelming sensation inside. Pretty soon tantrums won’t be as common because they’ll be able to label that crazy sensation that caused them in the past to throw themselves on the floor. The next step, though, is feeling the feeling.

Feeling the Feeling is Different From Thinking the Feeling

As adults the first step is still to know the feeling, but the next one is to allow yourself to feel it. We get into our heads way too quickly with the idea that we can think ourselves through a difficult feeling.

As painful as it is we need to have the experience of

Hopefully, we also get to feel the awesome, happy, ecstatic feelings. We need to get out of the habit of working to avoid those more challenging emotions and allowing ourselves the sense of feeling that feeling–and trust that we won’t get “stuck” in it.

The counseling room is a place to practice these feelings and I write about this at more length in my monthly article for Good Therapy. Check it out, it’s called Why Talking About Your Feelings In Therapy May Not Be Enough 

I’d love to hear your thoughts.


Justin Lioi, LCSW is a men’s mental health and relationship expert based in Brooklyn, NY (and online throughout New York State and internationally.) He received his degree from New York University and has been working in family and men’s counseling for over 10 years. Justin is on the Board of the National Association of Social Workers and writes a weekly column for the Good Men Project called Unmasking Masculinity. He can be found on local and national podcasts talking about assertiveness, anger, self-compassion, all with the goal of becoming the man you want to be.

Ready to talk about what’s holding you back, contact me for a free phone consultation.