Thursday, September 6, 2012

What Can Happen When We Honor Our Emotions

If you're anything like me, when given the opportunity to hear someone speak on a way of life that you strive for every day, you make it happen.

I routinely pore over our community paper in hopes of finding an interesting discussion, meeting, session; something that would inspire me, enrich me, and connect me to like-minded people. I remember a December morning, driving to hear a just-published author speak on her book, "Emotional Abundance." This screamed my name loud and clear: I had the emotional part, now I just had to learn how to make it feel abundant. Michelle Bersell, an area psychotherapist, was the speaker.

By nature, my DNA has "take no risk, risk no rejection" stamped all over its genome type. But Michelle had me nodding my head up and down so vigorously in agreement during her talk, that I made my shy self walk up to this intelligent woman afterward, and thank her for her words that were like water to my parched soul.

She was gracious, and so began our friendship. I have known Michelle professionally as my life coach and have come to now know her as my friend. She is a pure spirit of a woman, who feels we are all more capable than what we set before us.

I decided to take another risk and ask Michelle to be on my blog so that I could introduce you to this inspirational woman. I spoke with her on the phone, we emailed a few times, and today I am excited and proud and humbled to have her here, talking on a fascinating subject: our emotions. Her premise: when we "own" and honor our feelings, rather than interpret them as "good" or "bad," the ground is fertile for self-empowerment and an active role in our lives. Before uncovering the truth to her emotions, Michelle confesses that even though she was a psychotherapist, she would become paralyzed by her feelings and fears.

Thank you, Michelle, for accepting my invitation to be on my site today. I am thrilled to share you with the wonderful people I've met along the way.

As a mom, are you filled with confidence about how attentive and present you are with your kids? Do you feel like you are able to fulfill their every need? If you are like most moms, including myself, the answer is likely a big, fat NO!

Even though you already realize that not being able to fulfill your child’s every need is a good thing, a part of you yearns to do so. It is that part of you that wants to feel above adequate in providing for your kids’ emotional needs. Because women happen to be genetically set up to be more aware of feelings, moms tend to set much of the emotional tone in the families. Through being connected to your feelings, you are able to create greater intimacy within your relationships as well as a more robust emotional center.

Setting the emotional tone in your family is no easy task. You have your own emotions to deal with, your spouse or partner’s, as well as your kids. So while you may wake up enthused about your day, your son or daughter may make some offhanded comment that gets you reeling.

Not too long ago, my son’s comment “I like Dad’s kisses better,” got me going. Making matters worse, his twin brother agreed. My saving grace was my daughter, who although did not stick up for me, at least didn’t chime in with her brothers.

Is it silly that a comment like that tweaked me? Well, yes and no. As a psychotherapist, I can tell you the easier thing to do is blow off our feelings, no matter how irrational or pathetic they may first appear. Our rational mind can easily dismiss and label incidents that trigger our feelings as insignificant, wrong or shameful, in order to get us to move on with our day.

Here’s the deal though: Should you blow off your feelings, you are unknowingly missing crucial information about yourself that is impacting the emotional tone you set in your family AND that will keep you from feeling fulfilled.

What was underneath my own feelings was the oh so stereotypical mother’s guilt. Even though I thought I got the work/life balance down, I wondered “Did I miss the mark? Was I not available to my kids as much as I thought?” Wow, - all that from one little comment!

Of course, I am not conscious of those thoughts and concerns as I go about my day. Most of the time, I am feeling pretty darn good as a parent. It would be so easy for you or I to ignore these tiny little hurts. Yet I persuade you not to because what is underneath the feeling is juicy information that supports you and I to live in even greater joy and fulfillment.

You see, each feeling has its own unique gift. The gift of guilt is that when it is understood from your empowered self, it is supporting you to reclaim more of who you are as a woman. In other words, there is an old, outdated version of who you think you ought to be that no longer serves you. For us women, the ideal mom version we hold within us runs deep. In fact, our rational minds may dismiss this super mom version of ourselves entirely. The ego, which holds your fear, wants to use that version of super nurturer to test you as you grow more fully into your unique expression of being a woman. What is often at the hull of the ego’s notion of keeping our children emotionally healthy is being the ultimate nurturers.

As a psychotherapist and a mom, I can tell you what kids really need is to have nurturance modeled to them. Sometimes, nurturance is modeled through providing them with the care they need. What is often missing, however, is being able to model how to self-soothe.

To be frank, this task can be a challenge, when most adults themselves do not know how to self-soothe in a truly nurturing way. What is modeled to kids is turning to food, alcohol, Facebook and cell phones to try to ease our inner tensions. What is modeled is short-term fixes rather than long-term solutions.

Think of how different our society would be if kids understood how to address their feelings from an empowered stance instead. Rather than feel weighed down or helpless, your kids would be able to recognize how their negative feelings are showing them how to get back on track to their true selves. The result is they feel more certain in who they are, giving them the confidence to allow their true self to shine!

You and I, as mothers, are at the forefront of this change in emotional well-being. As you can see from my own example, this isn’t about providing yourself or your kids with a quick fix. It is a daily practice to recognize when your small self comes up that you are actually being guided to honor more of your truth. The more you honor your truth, the greater your ability will be to truly serve your kids, family and society, from a place of fulfillment rather than exhaustion.

The small self tries to insist that we must be the ones that provide the emotional nurturance for our kids. Your empowered self, on the other hand, knows that true emotional nurturance comes from within each individual. Giving our children this internal understanding is a gift they will carry throughout their lifetime, as well as onto their own children.

To make this shift within yourself and your children, you must be willing to reclaim what has been considered weak, shameful, or even too sensitive, as one of your greatest strengths. In my new book F.E.E.L.: Turn Your Negative Feelings Into Your Greatest Allies, I show you how each of your emotions is present to serve and support you. With a list of over 65 negative feelings, I share with you both the small self version as well as your empowered self’s message that is unique to each specific feeling you experience. The result is you learn how to move from disempowerment to empowerment, from fear to love, and from stress to peace day by day, moment by moment, feeling by feeling so you can teach your children to do the same.

To obtain your copy (plus exclusive bonus gifts), go to

Michelle Bersell, M.A., M.Ed., is known as a visionary leader in emotional consciousness who challenges common thought and understanding regarding emotional well-being. Combining her training as a psychotherapist along with her perceptive insight, Michelle continues to lead thousands to a new level of accessing and celebrating their potential. 

Besides media attention in Women’s World magazine, Parents magazine and Fox Television, Michelle is featured in the upcoming film documentary The Secret 2 LUCK.  Her latest book F.E.E.L.: Turn Your Negative Feelings Into Your Greatest Allies is a featured gift of the 2012 Emmy Awards.  Michelle has also received national recognition as one of the “50 Great Authors You Should be Reading” for her first book Emotional Abundance: Become Empowered. Michelle currently lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with her loving husband, daughter and twin sons. 

Find out more about Michelle at: 


  1. Great advice, Michelle. Looks like I have some 'homework' to do :)

    1. Hey Alison, It is just life practice. Glad the post resonated for you!

  2. Thank you, Michelle, and thank you Alexandra! I started noticing this too the first time I saw my son - maybe 6 or 7 at that point - mercilessly berating himself when he drew something that didn't come out the way he had wanted. He kept saying, "I am so bad, SO bad! I can't draw anything! I am terrible!" We joke that this little guy is so confident bordering on cocky sometimes, and yet when he is disappointed in himself he is ruthless. I had to ask myself, where did this come from? And I knew it was me. I talk like this to myself all the time. I remember once my son even said to me, "Why do you say bad things to yourself?" (This is before he actually picked up my habit.) I am terrible at self-soothing...never learned it, and hard emotions are very tough on me. But I know I've got a little one watching, and I know that in order to take care of him I need to take care of me first. Thank you for the reminder!

    1. Thank you Cecilia for your feedback. The truth is I think we all need reminders, myself definitely included. The more we learn to see our emotions from a place of empowerment, the easier it will be to remember our truth. Thanks so much for sharing!

  3. Once, my older child, Miss D., got into trouble for being mean to her sister. I sent her to her room.

    I came up five minutes later and she was in the bathroom, berating herself in the mirror. "You are a bad sister!" I was chilled to the bone.

    1. Thanks for sharing that powerful incident. I believe that is how sensitive most of our psyches are, kids just tend to share theirs more openly.

  4. I hope this doesn't mean my (adult) kids are doomed, since I never managed to get it right while I was raising them.

    1. Whoever does say they got it all right as a parent - I don't think I would trust. Your kids won't be doomed, because every experience is opportunity for growth. We all have that opportunity to enhance our emotional well-being and when we take it, that is when we can create lasting change!

  5. Great post, Michelle!

    I learned that for me, coping with pain has been my greatest teacher.

    Learning how to sit in sadness, anger, fear without running is the most difficult thing I've ever done. Also, the most worthwhile.

    Thanks for the reminder!

    1. Thanks Delfin, yes indeed, all of our emotions teach. Glad you have been able to apply that to your life early on!

  6. Thank you so much, Michelle, for this applicable, kind, generous post.

    We have so much to learn,and our children are watching.

    Every generation can grow from the one before it...and so much changes within each branch of the tree.

    This was wonderful, hosting you here: THANK YOU.

  7. This was insightful and very practical - it looks like a great book.

  8. Just read this, and love it: " Once you know exactly who you are, other people's perceptions of you will carry no weight. Self belief brings with it total freedom."

    Can I get an amen??

  9. Amen, Alexandra! So, so true...

  10. Amen Alexandra and thank you so much for opening up your community for me to share this post!

  11. Wow, thank you so much for this. This is something Alexandra and I have discussed for about a year now and I still can't seem to get a good handle on things. Mostly b/c, like you said, I turn to temporary and quick measures. Off to look at your book!



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