One way to recognise wallowing can be in the way you’re talking to yourself. Much like shame speaks in absolutes, so does wallowing. Things like
- ‘Why does this always happen to me?’
- ‘I’ll never be good enough’
- ‘I’m sick of this’
Sitting with feelings may sound more like this
- ‘This sucks, but I know I’ll move past this’
- ‘I really feel down, is there anything I can do to improve this situation?’
- ‘What do I need from myself right now?’
The first one is a narrative of nothing ever changing, so there’s no point to anything. No point to moving forward or engaging with feelings, because nothing will change anyway. There are times where that may be true! But for the most part, a way of moving forward, even if less than perfect, is a better option than staying still, in the mire of these absolute thoughts.
Acknowledging your feelings is key, for me, because pushing feelings away only tends to make them worse. Even if my feelings don’t reflect reality, I acknowledge that I’m feeling them, and try to figure out a way I can make them less intense.
‘I’m feeling really anxious right now, I’m not sure why, and there’s nothing immediately obvious. I’m going to go for a walk/do some breathing/distract myself’
I tend to know what will work for me through practice, and feeling my feelings. I know my anxiety well enough to know when a walk will help quieten the noise vs talking vs playing games.
The goal for me was never to get rid of my anxiety. I don’t think I will, and most of the time, I don’t want to. My anxiety can be useful, it makes me empathetic, it helps with work, it is a constant companion. Instead it’s to engage, so it’s not overwhelming in it’s intensity, but instead is a messaging system I can choose to mute when I need to. Other times I can dig into why I’m feeling the way I am and maybe improve my situation to help.
Other people will have different relationships with their feelings and emotions, and will do what they need to do with them. The idea is to use your feelings to figure things out about yourself, and the changes you want to make in your life and yourself.