Living Like You Mean It by Ronald Frederick (Notes & Key Points)

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Living Like You Mean it was a great read for me.

It was recommended by a doctor I saw who was helping me with my anxiety issues.

It was definitely a book I needed to read to understand how the fear of emotions and the pattern of emotion, anxiety, and defenses play out in the body.

It has helped me to increase my emotional mindfulness and has enabled me to start practicing new patterns in relation to feelings.

The Basic Steps

There are 4 key steps to emotional mindfulness and regulation:

  1. Becoming aware– emotional mindfulness and your defense mechanisms
  2. Taming the fear– notice underlying discomfort as a signal to getting closer and increase tolerance/willingness
  3. Feeling it through– fully ride out the arc of feelings to clarity and alignment
  4. Opening up– decide to skillfully share your feelings with others or keep to yourself

Preparation & Education 

The Signs of Emotion Phobia (My Signs)

  • Avoiding emotional situations
  • Smiling or laughing when feeling something else underneath
  • Rationalizing or theorizing something away 
  • Finding it difficult to be still and present
  • Overthinking and indecisiveness
  • Needing to control all situations 
  • When faced with questions about emotion can’t explain the feelings clearly
  • Physically turning away from others or running when emotion increases
  • Discomfort or nervousness with silence
  • Feeling embarrassed or ashamed for feeling a certain way
  • Uncomfortable with prolonged eye contact
  • Getting anxious when someone else expresses emotion
  • Not being able to acknowledge or express what’s inside 
  • Holding back tears in front of people 
  • Fear of vulnerability or looking weak
  • Never allowing anger until it spills out 
  • Expressing anger passively
  • Not being able to feel pleasure or joy for long 
  • Dismissing accomplishments due to the fear of feeling pride or self-confidence

Other Notes

  • Emotionless people are usually very anxious 
  • Wallowing in feelings is not the same as feeling completely, when we feel completely emotions come and go and don’t get stuck in the body
  • Emotions are valuable signals that make up our personal identity, give us direction, and show our true self. When we deny them we are suppressing our power, personality, and potential
  • Our defenses, not our feelings, keep us stuck
  • Suppressed feelings are unhealthy 
  • Feelings are like waves that escalate to a peak and then defuse

How Did I Get This Way

  • We learn from early experiences with caregivers which feelings are acceptable and which aren’t and train our brain 
  • The more positive experiences we have sharing our feelings with others the better we get at dealing with those feelings 
  • Our brain is also influenced by our early emotional climate 
  • Allowing yourself to be present with feelings more rewires your brain 

My Family’s Emotional Landscape

  • Not openly expressive
  • One parent is cold and reserved about feelings the other is not as bad
  • Sexual expression, anger, enjoying things, and being scared were all treated as not good to show
  • Stuffing anger until it erupts
  • Parents don’t show much affection and it was weird to talk or express emotions but love was embraced
  • One parent was uncomfortable when showing intense feelings where there was withdrawal, dismissal, or silent treatment
  • Being good and not messing up was right and it instilled a sense of perfectionism and fear of failure/trying new things 
  • Overall, it was an icy cold environment at home and a stormy environment in certain places like sports teams

Messages Received

  • Fear is weak don’t show it 
  • Don’t get out of control or show too much anger or intensity 
  • Sexuality and affection are not to be shown or expressed
  • Don’t have too much fun or express your happiness, life is serious and you need to always be on the lookout
  • Get tough and push through  
  • Work isn’t enjoyable just what you have to do to get by, crack the whip
  • We will control your choices and interests so that you don’t screw up in life, you can’t do anything out of the box, weird, or that you feel truly passionate about 
  • Showing emotion is weird, don’t express sexuality, assertiveness, or too much feeling

Part 1: Awareness

8 primary emotions:

  1. Anger: irritation, annoyance, frustration, exasperation, dislike, resentment, rage
  2. Sadness: disappointment, dismay, loneliness, hurt, despair, sorrow, grief, dejection
  3. Happiness: contentment, satisfaction, amusement, enjoyment, enthusiasm, excitement, pride, delight, joy, elation, euphoria
  4. Love: friendliness, caring, affection, tenderness, compassion, desire, passion
  5. Fear: concern, nervousness, worry, wariness, anxiety, distress, terror, dread, panic, fright
  6. Shame/guilt: embarrassment, regret, remorse, humiliation, mortification
  7. Surprise: amazement, astonishment, awe, wonder, shock
  8. Disgust: contempt, disdain, aversion, distaste, revulsion
  • Feelings are felt in the body not thought about
  • Thinking distances you from your feelings
  • Unacknowledged feelings negatively affect our experience and behavior

Awareness of Defenses (My Main Defenses):

  • Restlessness
  • Avoiding eye contact or looking away or down
  • Avoiding things and situations I can’t control or escape from
  • Avoiding things that could cause high emotion 
  • Seeking pleasure to cover emotional pain
  • Going silent or talking too much
  • Overthinking and being indecisive
  • Rationalizing or theorizing and avoiding true underlying feeling
  • Tensing whole body and guts
  • Gut symptoms as a cover of emotional pain 
  • Minimizing accomplishment 
  • Passive aggressive acts 
  • Numbing out in the mind and disassociating to protect from feeling

Diagram of The Emotion Phobia Response Pattern

Other Notes:

  • A defense is any thought, behavior, or reaction used to distance from feelings
  • Overreliance on defenses can lead to problems although defenses are helpful in certain situations where it’s better to hold back
  • Defenses protect us from the anxiety we experience when we get closer to our true feelings
  • Feelings can also be defensive if they cover true feelings (anger is often used to cover sadness & fear)
  • Practicing emotional mindfulness can increase your ability to recognize your defense patterns 
  • Being aware of your defenses is essential to freeing yourself up emotionally and connecting deeply with others 

Step 2: Taming Fear

  • Anxiety or fear can be a helpful sign we are getting closer to our emotions 
  • We can reduce our discomfort to a manageable level so that our emotions don’t have to feel overwhelming 
  • Identifying and naming our feelings allows you to not get lost in them and stay in awareness
  • Describing and tracking our emotions can help reduce them
  • Abdominal breathing helps activate our parasympathetic nervous system
  • Visualization and positive feelings can act as an antidote (loving or powerful visions can help us move through)

Basic steps:

  1. Recognize and name the emotion
  2. Allow and embrace it 
  3. Investigate and track the flow 
  4. Nurture- breath from the belly, touch the heart, visualize something loving or powerful
  5. Engage- get present with your experience and let go of it 

Step 3: Feeling it Through 

  • When fully felt feelings don’t last forever. They have a beginning, middle, and end.
  • We need to be willing to see and accept our feelings for what they are
  • Attuning to what’s going on inside us frees up the energy of our emotions and allows them to move
  • Emotions are multifaceted. We need to feel them in all their complexity in order for them to be of benefit to us
  • There comes a moment when it’s often best simply to “give way” to our feelings
  • Experiencing and expressing our feelings are two separate things 
  • When we feel our emotions to completion we experience a body shift; we feel freed up and relieved
  • Making space and allowing one feeling often allows others below it 
  • Reflecting on our experience of feeling our emotions consolidates our gains and rewires our neural network aka integration 
  • Discharging emotions as a reflective action without feeling them is unhealthy and makes them worse…..experience then decide how to act

Step 4: Opening Up

  • Our needs for closeness, security, and care are biologically based and exist throughout our lifetime
  • Emotions can help us see what we need or want in order to make things better
  • Putting our feelings into words is one of the most powerful ways to communicate what’s in our heart
  • Early experiences with our caregivers can lead us to be afraid of opening up later in life
  • Fear of expressing ourselves can be overcome through practice and experience
  • When we are mindful of it, the wisdom of our feelings can inform and guide our choices
  • When verbalizing how we feel and what we need, we should keep our message simple and clear, use “I” statements, and communicate in a way that is respectful to ourselves and the listener not blaming someone else or putting them down
  • Slowing ourselves down and mindfully attending to the present moment can make opening up more manageable
  • Speaking slowly connects us to our feelings and allows our expression to come from the heart
  • Making eye contact helps extinguish our fears, makes us feel closer, and increases the likelihood of being understood
  • Lean into your discomfort a little more each time, and your capacity to be emotionally open will expand (sit in silence with another person, hold eye contact a bit longer, stay with yours and others’ feelings longer) 
  • If someone can be with your feelings don’t be afraid to express them when you feel it’s right but if someone has no compassion or ability to be with them it’s best not to open up

Steps for Listening to Feelings and Getting Clear on What You Want:

  1. Get quiet, go inside, and feel/listen to your feelings to determine what they are communicating
  2. Ask yourself what your desires or needs are and let it come from your felt sense
  3. Decide if you want to express it to others or what course of action will help you achieve your desired goal 

Mindful Communication Tips:

  • Feel yourself grounded in your body. Notice feet against the floor and back against the support. Bring your attention back to this present moment when you start to feel anxious and push out of your body.
  • Speak slowly and allow yourself to stay connected to your words. Pause and reflect on what you’re saying and try to feel the words coming from a centered place inside you instead of rapidly in the headspace.
  • Keep the message simple and clear, use “I” instead of you, and don’t blame or put down someone else but state simply how you are feeling and what you need
  • Without judgment, observe what’s happening in the moment, what’s coming up for you, what’s transpiring between you and the other person, and how the other person is responding. Just notice.
  • Let yourself make eye contact. Notice what you see in the other person’s eyes. If you’re not sure what he or she is feeling, ask for clarification.

Closing Thoughts

Opening up to feelings can be scary if you are someone who has built strong patterns of suppression for most of your life. That’s why it’s important to seek help if you need it and proceed at a pace that suits you.

At the end of the day, in order to live a full healthy life that’s in alignment with who we truly are, we need to learn to befriend our feelings. Overcoming feelings phobia is a process that takes practice and time.

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Josh is a writer and entrepreneur who runs a small digital content publishing business. His main interests are in topics related to developing personal and financial freedom. When not working he enjoys reading, yoga, surfing, being outdoors, meditating, exploring, and hanging with friends.