EP #12

Figuring Out Your Feelings

alcoholic minimalist podcast

listen to



In this episode of “Breaking the Bottle Legacy,” Molly emphasizes the significance of accountability, camaraderie, and continuous learning in this journey. She delves into the foundation of her successful transformation, focusing on emotional maturity and the behavior map and results cycle. Molly introduces the concept that feelings and emotions originate from different areas of the brain and explains the critical role of the prefrontal cortex in interpreting emotional responses. She breaks down the distinction between emotions and feelings, highlighting the limbic system’s role in basic emotions and the prefrontal cortex’s involvement in personal and acquired feelings. Molly shares insights into her personal experience with anger and the importance of recognizing shared physiological experiences in defining emotions. She discusses the impact of thoughts on feelings, challenging the belief that circumstances dictate emotions, and encourages listeners to understand the results cycle and the role of identity in building lasting habits.

You’re listening to break in the bottle legacy with Molly watts, Episode 12. Hi, I’m Molly, after a lifetime living under the influence of family alcohol abuse, spending more than 30 years worrying about alcohol and my own drinking, believing I had an unbreakable daily drinking habit, I changed my relationship with alcohol forever. If you want to change your drinking habits than breaking the bottle legacy is for you. My goal is to help you create a peaceful relationship with alcohol, past, present, and future. Each week all focus on real science and using your own brain to change your relationship with alcohol. Nothing has gone wrong, you’re not broken, you’re not sick. It’s not your genes. And creating peace is possible. I’m here to help you do it. Let’s start now. Well, hello, and welcome or welcome back to breaking the bottle legacy with me, your host, Molly watts, coming to you from well, let’s say it looks like it’s going to be a fairly decent day here in Oregon, a little blue sky peeking through some clouds that I can see at this point. And who knows, maybe some rain showers. You can never count those out here. So welcome to the spring anyways, right? It’s March. And I’m looking ahead and just anticipating some warmer sunnier days. Here I want to do a couple of quick housekeeping things again, real fast. The book promotion that I mentioned last week is ending. So if you want to get 32 different titles, for Free Self Help titles, you can just click on the link in the show notes. That promotion ends, march 15, I believe maybe March 25, I’m gonna have to look anyways, but it’s still going strong. So if you’re listening to this in March 2021, then go look for that link and go grab yourself some free books. Or if you can’t get those, you can always go to www dot Molly watts.com. And pick up the free ebook, alcohol trigger this how much is safe. So either way, that book is what’s available in the free 32 book promotion. But also if you go to Molly watts.com. Alright, and if you have not already joined our private Facebook group, I really want to encourage you to join, I actually changed the name of it recently, it’s now called just change your alcohol habit. I did that because when you search for groups on Facebook, if you just like searched alcohol, this might come up whereas breaking the bottle legacy, you know, it’s a little more specific to my podcast and book. So I changed the Facebook group name but nothing else has changed. And it’s called to change your alcohol habit. I’m going to link that in my show notes as well. We’d love to have you join us. It’s a great spot for some additional accountability, some camaraderie, some more learning, taking things a little bit deeper. I’m going live in there almost once a week now to talk to people. So would love to have you there. And it’s a private group, so no one has to know you’re there. You can search for it in groups on Facebook. All right, so on with the show. Last week, in episode number 11, I introduced you to what I call the behavior map. And within the behavior map, the results cycle I mentioned then, and I’ll mentioned it again that if you are familiar with either Brooke Castillo is the model or with Rachel hearts, think feel act cycle, you’ll recognize my take on these tools. And these two tools are really the foundation of why I have successfully changed my drinking habit and have created a peaceful relationship with alcohol. And truthfully, learning how to navigate your own and other people’s behavior with the behavior map, and understanding and applying the results cycle to mindfully choose the outcomes you have in your life. These are meta skills that you can use to improve any area of your life that isn’t working for you. So for me, I had to address my 30 plus year daily drinking habit. And my 40 plus year struggle with my alcoholic mother to become a more authentic, better version of myself. This was the area of my life that I had hidden away. I had buried the feelings behind a successful career, a busy family life and a strong social circle. But ultimately, I needed to figure out my feelings and to realize that I could in fact handle all of the negative emotions that I had in my life without buffering them away with alcohol and being able to manage my mind to process negative emotions as well. well as create more positive emotions, on purpose has been a game changer. It’s really where anything that you want to change about your life begins and ends in my opinion. And where that is, is in the middle of the behavior map in the middle of the results cycle. And it’s your feelings, you have to figure out your feelings. Conveniently enough, that is exactly what we are talking about today on this episode of the podcast, figuring out your feelings. If you maybe listen back to episode number 10, I talked about emotional immaturity, and how it’s very common among people who are addicted to alcohol or other drugs. And it’s really not too hard to understand why that is, right. Emotional immaturity basically means that you aren’t great at handling your emotions. And unlike physical maturity, we which has clearer and clearer markers when it’s achieved, emotional maturity isn’t as easy to see, and it simply doesn’t happen. Because we age. In fact, it’s very possible to be a functional adult, and still be emotionally immature. Emotional immaturity is in fact, as we discussed on the previous podcast, and an episode 10 a problem for many people, regardless of age, or professional success. And as an adult child of an alcoholic, emotional immaturity was modeled for me by my mother, and was something that I struggled with even as a quote unquote, successful adult. And until I fully understood and practiced, both the behavior maps and the behavior map and the results cycle, I often acted like I was at the effect of my feelings, instead of choosing and directing my thoughts to create or change my feelings. And so luckily, you know, even though we may not have had good mock role models at home, like me, right, or other adult children of alcoholics, and we also aren’t taught these skills of the behavior map and the results cycle in school. emotional maturity is something we can improve. And so in this episode, we’re going to talk about steps to take towards that. So here’s what I hope you get. So what does figuring out our feelings mean? To me, it means that, number one, we understand that we experience emotions, or feelings in different areas of the brain. And I’m going to explain that we notice and can describe the physical sensations that are happening in our bodies when we experience emotions. Number three, we are willing and able to feel all of our feelings without trying to numb them or change them by drinking alcohol, we accept that we aren’t always going to feel happy, and content, and we know with certainty that we can handle all of our emotions. And number four, we practice choosing thought to create the feelings we need to get the results we want in our lives. All right, so that’s what figuring out our feelings is all about. It’s a lot, right? I’m just going to touch on the tops of all of this during this podcast. But truthfully, this is where everything you do in your life resides, figuring out those feelings. All right, I realized that what I thought would be something kind of easy to talk about and explain in terms of feelings and emotions. And the ideas is, is actually a little more difficult. The idea that our feelings determine our actions isn’t all that complicated, who hasn’t jumped into a new diet or a fitness routine, feeling totally motivated and committed, and you’ve got, you know, good decisions about food and exercise or really being made with ease. And then a few weeks later, and you’re in the same regimen, and you’re feeling stressed or unmotivated. And now you skip the workout and you eat the free doughnut that’s being offered at work. In both scenarios, the feelings that you have dictate the actions that you take or don’t take, right, like I said, not complicated, defining exactly what those feelings are. However, that’s a little more challenging. I want to make sure that I that I talk about both feelings and emotions and and talk about the different terminology, and not confuse you with too much excessive neuroscience. But your ability to feel better right now, in this very moment is important and without, you know, before you even changed your relationship with alcohol. And it’s those beautiful, complicated human brains that are at work again, providing both the problem and the solution to figuring out your feelings. So we use the terms feelings and emotions pretty much interchangeably, right. And I think that’s commonplace and I don’t really think that you whether you use those terms interchangeably is going to really impact your ability to do transforming relationship with alcohol. So I’m not gonna get too hung up on that. But I do want to acknowledge that in the strictest sense, psychologist defined the two words separately, and they differentiate the two terms based on the different areas of the brain that are involved. So for what I want to talk about, I am going to differentiate between those two neurological experiences. But I’m just not going to talk to try to separate the two terms, feelings, emotions, I’m going to use them interchangeably. All right, we’re going to talk about the different areas of the brain. So the first type of emotion or feeling I want to explore is what can be described as a basic or primal emotion. basic emotions are physical, and they are instinctive. They have been programmed into our genes over many, many years of evolution, and they are hard wired. And while they are complex, and involve a variety of physical and cognitive responses, many of which are not very well understood. Their general purpose is to produce a specific response to a stimulus. For example, you are on your own and on foot in the savanna wilderness, you see a lion, and you instantly get scared. All right, fear is a basic emotion and our basic or primal emotions are carried out by our limbic system by the Neal mammalian, right, the middle, the subconscious. It’s a fear response that floods your body with adrenaline. Adrenaline increases your heartbeat makes your breathing become more rapid, your body is reacting in a basic way to protect you in is preparing your body for flight or fight. Now, in the triune brain, if you remember back on, you know, go listen to earlier podcast if you want to learn more about the triune brain. It’s this part of the brain, the limbic system, that evolved to help species including our primitive ancestors, survive. The basic emotions evoke physical responses, and drive us to avoid pain and seek pleasure. Because these emotions are seated in the limbic system, they are illogical, irrational and unreasonable. They happen to us almost automatically. And we’ve all experienced Primal Fear, right? You perceive a threat, your heart rate picks up, your breathing becomes shallow, adrenaline is pushed out from your limbic system, what you have also likely experienced is that very same reaction when you are simply watching a scary movie, right? Even though there is no real threat to your safety, your primitive brain reacts as if there were. And that’s really why figuring out your feelings and which part of the brain is driving them is critical to helping you manage your mind and ultimately change your relationship with alcohol. When we allow our primitive brain to react in survival mode, we are driven to seek pleasure and avoid pain in a very immediate way. Psychologists have struggled to agree on how many basic emotions there actually are. The lists range from four up to 48 basic emotions, with different theories and models, researched and published across several different decades. I tend to favor the simpler models because they more accurately align with the evolutionary process in the brain. And because the simpler models emphasize that basic emotions are experienced in the limbic system. As I mentioned before, psychologists define the two words emotions and feelings separately. For psychologists, it is emotions that are the experiences happening in the subconscious limbic system. These primal emotional responses are universally recognizable by the physical responses that caught that they cause. Feelings, as we are about to learn are what happens when the prefrontal cortex or conscious brain interprets those emotional responses. Given that most people don’t study neuroscience, and using these the two words emotions and feelings as conventional norm, what we are focusing on is separating the parts of the brain involved with each experience. While there are a relatively small number of primal emotions, right? I said I favorite the model that has six feelings, as defined by psychologists involve the prefrontal cortex, and are the mental associations and reactions to an emotion that are personal and acquired through experience. There are over 4000 listed in the English language, and most people can easily recognize at least five 100 of those, but when asked to list emotions, they can only list five to 10. That’s why emotions are those primal emotions are, are more limited. The emotion comes first and is universal. What kind of feeling will It will then become varies from person to person, and from situation to situation, because feelings are shaped by each person’s individual temperament and experience. Two people can experience the same emotion, but label it under different names, thus, different feelings, right? Whether or not you see, you know, the bottom line is whether you separate the two terms feelings or emotions, or not the different areas of the brain where we experience each are different. And it’s our brains primitive response mode that we need to override with our prefrontal cortex to help change our relationship with alcohol. Most of us weren’t ever taught that we can manage our minds, and actually create our emotions, we often feel at the mercy of our primitive emotions, we let fear or anger or pleasure guide our decisions in the moment, and we don’t uncover what is causing the emotions in the first place. We don’t realize that we can change our feelings by changing our thinking. And we live our lives at the effect of our emotions, like I did for most of my life, quite honestly, the first time I really remember being presented with the concept of emotions being something that I could actually manage and control was during a work seminar that I attended back in the early 1990s. Quite honestly, I don’t remember why we had the seminar. I don’t remember who facilitated it. And I can’t find the materials anymore, because this was long before the age of the internet. And, at least for me, it was prior to stock, you know, storing things electronically. So regardless, the seminar sticks out in my memory, because it was the first time I remember thinking about emotion and emotion in the way that it was described. The focus was on controlling anger. And the presenter illustrated the concept to us by sharing a diagram of a horse and a rider. He said that anger was like a bucking horse. And we were the writers and could grab the reins, use our stirrups and control the horse. It was not the other way around. Anger didn’t control us and cause us to yell, scream, or punch walls. And at that point in my life, I still believed that emotions happened to me. I could relate to anger being like a bucking horse inside of me out of control and scary and taking me for a wild ride felt like that. I remember that he asked us to describe physical things that happened to us when we were angry, and people offered getting flushed, Clenching fists, a rapid heartbeat. Yes, we all experienced anger in similar ways. And that, by definition, is what psychologists define as a motion. It’s that shared physiological experience that happens within our limbic systems, that defines emotions. And that then they are driven by an evolutionary response. Inherently, the idea that we can condition could control our temper, and we were not at the effect of anger made sense to me, my father, a model for me of someone who never seemed to get angry, or lose his temper had often quoted at Les Stevenson to me, you can tell the size of a man by the size of the thing that makes him mad. And in its simplest form, I would use that quote, to remind myself that being irritated over a slow grocery checker or being stuck in a traffic jam, weren’t really big enough reasons to be angry. What I still didn’t realize through the seminar, or my dad’s teaching, was the idea that no matter what the size of the thing, I was able to choose thoughts that would create a feeling of anger, or choose thoughts that created calm. It was my own thinking, not the thing that created anger. Right. Are there times when anger is appropriate? Well, of course, and that’s really the message behind Adly Stevenson’s quote, don’t sweat the small stuff, save your anger for the situations and events that truly married it right. But that still sort of implies that that thing is in charge of determining when anger is appropriate. What actually determines whether you are angered by something or not, is the thought you choose to think every single one of us has the power to determine and choose our thoughts independently. And remember, we talked about this last week on the episode about circumstances right? Even if 99% of us agree that an event is upsetting terrify are outrageous, that still doesn’t make it a fact, we’ve all applied judgment had a thought. And it’s determining how we feel. Of course, two people might interpret the same event have the same or similar thoughts and feel completely different, right. That’s why understanding this process and managing your own mind is so important. We don’t need to change other people, or control the world around us to change the results we have in our lives. We need to change how we think, to change how we feel, to change how we act. And that’s really the gift of the results cycle. Within that behavior map results cycle framework that I talked about last week. It’s a framework for figuring out our feelings. We all have times where we feel stuck or overwhelmed, where we may just want to say I feel sad. And being able to pinpoint our feelings and articulate them better helps us identify the thoughts that are causing them. It’s a tool for taking control and improving the situation ourselves. When we embrace that this cycle is at work everywhere in our lives, it empowers us to change. On the flip side if we continue to believe that it’s the circumstances in our lives, dictating how we feel, we are completely powerless. So understanding the results cycle that I talked about last week, intellectually is the first step in changing your relationship with alcohol. learning it and actually using it to create change in your life requires practice and commitment. At the center of the results cycle is our feelings when we want to take different actions in our lives. Rather than focusing on the actions themselves, we need to examine how we are feeling. While it might seem like simply making a plan to control the number of drinks you have in a night, or to stop drinking for a number of days is a logical step to change your relationship with alcohol. Without understanding the feeling we are trying to affect with alcohol. The results will be short lived in his book, atomic habits, and of course, I will link it again in my show notes, I’ve linked it more than once. James clear explains that to truly change a habit, meaning to sustain change, you need to change your identity, not just change what you do, he says that there are three layers to behavior change. And he actually says that in terms of a circle, he talks about it in terms of outcomes, processes, and identity. And clear tells us that outcomes are what you get. Processes are about what you do. And identity is about what you believe, when it comes to building habits that last, the problem isn’t that one layer is better or worse than the other, all of them are useful. The problem is the direction of change. Most people when they are trying to change habits focus on what they are trying to achieve, in this case, to change our drinking habits or to drink less. And this leads to outcome based habits. To become someone who has a peaceful relationship with alcohol, past, present and future. We need to focus on who we wish to become not just controlling the action of drinking, we need to change our identity. First, we change our beliefs and our thoughts about alcohol to become someone who by definition, drinks less and never worries about their alcohol use. We change from the inside out, not the outside in. So someone who considers themselves a health nut feels differently about those doughnuts offered at work that we talked about previously, right? Doughnuts may not even create desire for the health nut. Because his or her thought is simply eating donuts doesn’t fuel me in a way that gives me sustained energy. I prefer yogurt with fruit nuts. Learning to think like someone who already has the results you are looking for is key to changing your habits, and most especially the habit of drinking. I remember when I was stuck in my unbreakable drinking habit and how I used to marvel at one of my best friends who was thin fit and who didn’t drink every night. And I truly believed that she was fundamentally just different than I was. I believe she was better, stronger, had more self control. She was just one of those people who used exercise to distress instead of wine or beer. I wished I could be more like her. But I was too tired after work to exercise. I simply had more stress than she did. I had a different body type. I liked beer too much. I lacked self control. I had more desire for alcohol because of my genetic disposition. All of these thoughts seemed like the truth To me, I didn’t question them or challenge them. And those last two, that I lacked self control and I had more desire for alcohol had been playing subconsciously on the repeat for years in my mind, what these thoughts created were feelings of defeat and despair. Of course, I wanted to drink to change how I was feeling because most of the time, I felt pretty terrible. What I realized when I applied the behavior map results cycle to my own drinking was that all of these thoughts were optional. It wasn’t the events of my life, or my own personal circumstances that were creating how I felt, it was my own thoughts. By changing my thoughts, I could change my identity, I could feel stronger, I did have self control. I didn’t need a drink every night to take the edge off. And my desire to drink wasn’t caused by my quote unquote alcoholic genes. Uncovering the thoughts you have, especially the unconscious ones, is key for anyone trying to change their relationship with alcohol. For adult children of alcoholics, this will include finding those limiting beliefs we learned as children from our alcoholic parents. It also means the thoughts we currently have about alcohol, that may be as simple as I just want one, when considering the next glass of wine. To find the thoughts, we need to be first cognizant of our feelings, and figuring out where those feelings are coming from. Especially when the feeling is primal or basic stemming from our limbic system, we need to be able to step back and see the feeling for what it truly is, are we really in danger? Do we really need whatever we are desiring. Our primitive brain is always seeking to avoid pain and to find pleasure. And our habit of drinking accomplishes both. We’ve trained our brains to committed drinking alcohol to habit, and now it’s time to use our brains to change that habit. It requires us to figure out our feelings, we have to figure out what is driving our thoughts. I mean, what is driving our actions, and to figure out your feelings means that you need to understand where those feelings are coming from? Are they primal based feelings? Are they motivated by a subconscious illogical brain that is always seeking pleasure and avoiding pain, but does not have a future focused, goal oriented? Thought about it? Right? We want to use our prefrontal cortex to think on purpose and to create feelings of motivation and, and satisfaction and content pneus and everything else and, and to understand that we have control in this process, to be able to manage our minds and feel things on purpose. That’s really what I want you to hear, in terms of figuring out your feelings. We need to be able to articulate, understand and uncover the thoughts that are leading us to our feelings. All right, that’s a lot. I know, this is a big subject. And I hope that you’ve at least got an idea right now that you have some say in this process, that emotions are something that you can figure out you can work on, and you can manage with your own mind. And creating feelings on purpose is something that was really new to me. When I started all this work, the idea that I could create the feeling of motivation took me a while to get my head around that one. I really truly thought that just you know those things that I had to feel motivated to do something but I did not understand that that feeling of motivation came from my own thinking. Alright, that’s it for this episode. I hope you got something out of this. Take something you learned and apply it to your life this week. All right. Until next time, choose peace, my friends. Thank you for listening to breaking the bottle legacy. This podcast is dedicated to helping you change your drinking habits and to create a peaceful relationship with alcohol. Take something that you learned in today’s episode and apply it to your life this week. Transformation is possible. You have the power to change your relationship with alcohol. Now, for more information, please visit me at www dot Molly watts.com