How are you really feeling? Overcoming Meta-Feelings with Cristina and Alex

Have you ever found yourself getting upset about something, then felt upset with yourself for being upset? This is a meta-feeling: how you feel about the feelings you're experiencing. In our latest judgment-free episode of Uncover The Human, our hosts Cristina and Alex take a deep-dive into emotions and the feelings we have about them. They teach us to overcome meta-feelings through the radical acceptance of our emotional experiences, conquering shame and guilt about our feelings, naming the emotion we're feeling to better work through it, and...screaming underwater at the local pool.

Credits: Raechel Sherwood for Original Score Composition.

YouTube Channel: Uncover The Human







Cristina Amigoni: Welcome to Uncover the Human where every conversation revolves around enhancing all the connections in our lives.

 Alex Cullimore: Whether that's with our families, co-workers or even ourselves.

Cristina Amigoni: When we can be our authentic selves, magic happens.

Alex Cullimore: This is Cristina Amigoni.

Cristina Amigoni: And this is Alex Cullimore. Let’s dive in.

Alex Cullimore: Let’s dive in.

Cristina Amigoni: Let’s dive in.

Authenticity means freedom.”

“Authenticity means going with your gut.”

“Authenticity is bringing 100% of yourself not just the parts you think people want to see, but all of you.”

“Being authentic means that you have integrity to yourself.”

“It's the way our intuition is whispering something deep-rooted and true.”

“Authenticity is when you truly know yourself. You remember and connect to who you were before others told you who you should be.”

“It's transparency, relatability. No frills. No makeup. Just being.”


Alex Cullimore: Welcome back to this episode of Uncover the Human. And welcome, Cristina. We are our own guests today.

Cristina Amigoni: We are. Hosts and guests. Dual personalities.

Alex Cullimore: Yes, both of them on display today.

Cristina Amigoni: I know. Maybe we should change wardrobe really fast?

Alex Cullimore: Yeah. I think we'll couple smash cuts.

Cristina Amigoni: It's like guest hat, host hat.

Alex Cullimore: Those of you just listening, that's definitely what's happening. For those of you on YouTube, don't tell anybody.

Cristina Amigoni: It's not. We forgot the hats.

Alex Cullimore: So one thing we wanted to talk about today was the idea of meta feelings, which is to say feelings about feelings. How we feel about how we feel?

Cristina Amigoni: Which we all have. We do all experience more than one feeling at a time. And part of the salad bar of feelings that happen all at once is meta feelings, which are usually coming from judgments of the feelings we're having.

Alex Cullimore: As if you've ever felt, like, I shouldn't feel angry about this. Or why am I so upset? Or things that tend to come with basically a value judgment that you're giving yourself better or worse about the fact that you're having a feeling.

Cristina Amigoni: Yes. And we do it to others, too.

Alex Cullimore: Why is this person so angry? Well, they don't need to be that upset about that.

Cristina Amigoni: Yeah. You shouldn't be afraid to jump out on a plane.

Alex Cullimore: Go ahead and make that estimation on my own.

Cristina Amigoni: The other person feels fear. And now they're feeling judged for the fear. So they're most likely feeling the anger. We're judging them. So there's a whole just complete buffet of feelings going on all at once.

Alex Cullimore: You don't feel occasionally like your head is in spin cycle. Maybe you're not paying attention to the emotions because it definitely sometimes feels like that. Me, I feel like I’ve had that conversation with you. There's just definitely a jumble.

Cristina Amigoni: Yes, definitely. I like Brené Brown's two-word check-ins, because it gives validation and permission. It's one of those psychological safety pieces to, I guess, acknowledge and normalize that nobody's expecting anyone to feel one thing at once. And it is possible to be excited and nervous. So usually, with the two-word check-ins, most of the times you'll get opposite, what we consider opposite feelings, like a positive one and a more difficult one. And it's like the normalizing of that.

Alex Cullimore: I think excited and nervous is a great example, or tired but hopeful, or whatever. Anything like that tends to come up, because usually we're feeling something a little more complex and giving it that two words forces the extra step to be taken. Like, I could say I’m fine. That's not going to cover it. So what are you really? And then it forces you to kind of give that a little bit more nuance.

Cristina Amigoni: Yeah. And the safe space to actually say those out loud and then be validated, and acknowledged, and respected for that, it almost takes the fuel away from the meta feeling. Because now we don't have room to judge. There's no reason to judge our own feelings, because we just share them. And people have supported us on them.

Alex Cullimore: And Brené Brown I believe, also, one of the people who said this, if not coined it, the idea that shame can't stand empathy. If you can create empathy, shame really does has no air to breathe, nowhere left to live. You shine light on that. There's no more shadow to cover it. And shame I think is one of the things that comes up when we have met feelings. We're having shame about having anger or having shame about feeling afraid. If we're giving a presentation or we're going to go do a job interview or something and we're nervous about it. We might have done 20 000 job interviews before. We might think this is a good fit or not. But it doesn't mean there aren't nerves, which is again why that kind of two-word check-in helps, because there's feelings, but there's also feelings on top of it. And you don't have to just limit yourself to I should feel this way. You get a promotion that you feel like in your stomach you're like, "I’m sure that's what I want. It's okay to –" Even if everybody else is like, "That's so great. This is exactly what you should want essentially." It doesn't mean that that's what you're going to feel. And that dissonance is a huge place that meta feelings tend to live.

Cristina Amigoni: Yeah, and the disconnect. So the meta feeling is so powerful, which usually something like shame probably wins the Olympic gold of meta feelings for both showing up more than any other one. And the power it has, it's one of those, like, every Olympic event has the shame. It's like it's never going to go away. Maybe the outfit changes, hat changes, but shame is always going to be there. But it's the – I know, I lost my train of thought because I was thinking about shame ice skating on an ice rink every four years.

Alex Cullimore: I was also thinking about shame doping and really making it to be the most powerful of it.

Cristina Amigoni: Clearly, it's not in my head right now. I would stop talking.

Alex Cullimore: These are expressed meta feelings. So you don't have judgments about these feelings. You're just expressing them out loud. It's a case study.

Cristina Amigoni: I think my key point was the disconnect that some of the meta feelings can be so powerful that then we forget what the actual feeling is, because now we've switched our focus. And as we have talked about in the past, the mind can't focus on two things at the same time, which means if I’m afraid of something, I kind of forgotten the fear because I am more focused on the shame of being afraid, which doesn't really help me from running away from the saber tooth tiger. Because that fear is actually needed, like, way more than the shame at that moment.

Alex Cullimore: Yeah. And then a caveman stopping themselves running away from the sabertooth tiger and like, "I shouldn't be afraid now." That one got eaten. So it's worth remembering kind of how emotions pop up for us. So we process all inputs from our visual auditory sense, every sense that we get off the world, smell, etc., comes in and is interpreted through amygdala first. So the very base level of your brain all processed, to kind of in that lucid brain area where you have your immediate reactions. And it’s put there because that has the power to create the fight or flight reactions, for exactly what you’re talking about. You see that saber tooth tiger. You don’t really want to spend the extra few seconds or, yeah, even half a second where your – It’s all the way to the frontal cortex of your brain so you can think about the logical implications of it being a saber tooth tiger. You need that amygdala to kick in right then and already be fast-tracked to your adrenal glands so you can start sprinting away.

So there’s a really good reason that we end up processing things there first. On the flip side, it then means the emotions to be trapped. It can be something that creates a fight or flight response that we weren’t expecting. And we talked about that a little bit with Laurie when we’re talking about amygdala hijacking. That’s when it comes very obvious that we are having a reaction that no longer feels logically there.

And so the emotions we have come up long before. And if they make it past the amygdala, they can eventually come up towards the frontal cortex of the brain where we do a lot more complex processing, more of the conscious mind. More of things that we are aware of and trying to make active choices about. But it gets through all these layers of subconscious and choices that are made without our knowledge before we even really know we're feeling them.

And so it's worth remembering that when we have met feelings, about feelings about feelings, those already started before both the meta feeling and the feeling that we're having originally both started way before we have conscious knowledge of this. And so, if we don't have that conscious control over it, there's probably not a great time to be judging yourself for why this is happening or not. Susan David says emotions are really just a good data point, right? It tells you something. So meta feelings tend to pop up. Which, like you're saying, because the conscious minds can really only have one thing going on at a time, that we don't do multitasking. Well, even if our subconscious is doing lots of things, our ability to concentrate on something is a one-track mind. So when you have that meta feeling, and that becomes the dominant one, now you're thinking less and less about the fact that you're even having a feeling about a feeling. You're just concentrating on the meta feeling. And that’s a really long way to get back to the original point.

Cristina Amigoni: I wonder how many feelings happened in all that. But the list? Well, interestingly enough, actually, both Susan Davis and Brené Brown talk about this. And I'm sure thousands of others have done the research. We also tend to not name our emotions openly. I wouldn't want to see correctly, but as expansively as we probably should. Most people will say happy, sad, angry. Those are the 99% of emotions that I feel.

And the interesting part is that once we actually start looking for the right emotion and the right name for it, it really starts helping that pause from stimulus, to feeling, to meta feeling, to reaction, to reaction of the meta feeling. And now we are completely hijacked. And we have no idea how we ended up doing whatever we're doing, which now we're regretting. So we're judging the current, the past and the future because we're wondering what's going to happen in the future for the relationship we just ruined because we ended up yelling over the coat on the couch.

Alex Cullimore: To point out a real example.

Cristina Amigoni: It always goes back to the coat on the couch. Go back to episodes with Laurie. We talked about that. For some people, it’s towels on the floor, shoes on the table. It’s always usually –

Alex Cullimore: I think most people are a little upset about shoes on the table. That's a pretty gross one. It’s not just clutter. That's like hygiene.

Cristina Amigoni: Yeah. Don't get me started about the shoes on the table.

Alex Cullimore: Oh, I thought that one was made up.

Cristina Amigoni: No, no, no.

Alex Cullimore: We’re learning new things here on the podcast today.

Cristina Amigoni: So there is a way to stop the train from derailing so catastrophically. It's really to stop and name them. To stop and ask the questions, is “What am I feeling?” The meta feeling, as you said, has already happened. So what is the meta feeling of the feeling? Let's name them both. Why give one the stage? This is a flat organizational chart.

Alex Cullimore: It is as squiggly as your brain is. So I think that's a great point. And if you want to get a shortcut to be able to ask those questions, I'm going to go back to the I am angry, to I feel angry, to I noticed that I'm feeling angry. If you get yourself that distance, suddenly you can hear some of those other voices and you start to feel multiple emotions at once.

And while you're talking about that, I was thinking about times that I've had those feelings rise up, right? When you're in the middle of a conversation or something and when you feel like you can't express them. I mean, if you think about any relationship that has any kind of a power dynamic where you feel like you don't want to rock the boat right now, or something, or between a family, or this is between a boss and an employee, “Here's the thing you've got.” Somewhere where they've said something. Now you feel angry, but you don't want to bring it up because it’s socially not the right moment or whatever.

I think, for me, and I'm guessing there's some similarity for a lot of people, meta feelings start to come up when we're already rehearsing how we're going to have to act like to other people more than even how we're feeling with ourselves, which circumvents us even naming it for ourselves in the first place.

Cristina Amigoni: Yeah, yeah, the mask we have to wear. So now we've got the feeling of I need to belong. And I can only belong if I act this way. And that's not my natural way. And then you just keep going down this snowball effect of, “I'm going to be rejected. What happens if I'm rejected? I'm ashamed to be rejected. I'm not good enough.” I mean, there's a whole series of things that can happen with that and make it even more powerful for the meta feelings to take over when you probably – I wouldn't say forget, but you de-prioritize what was actually happening in the moment, because you're in full threat mode.

Alex Cullimore: And that brings up an interesting point, too, because you can have meta feelings about projected outcomes, too. If you've had like the conversation in your head you're about to have with somebody and then you start to think about it going the way you don't want it to go or something, and now you're already angry that they've had this imaginary reaction that they haven't even had a chance to start a conversation on yet. Well, how could they not give me a promotion? Because I just thought about these things. Like, have you even asked yet? Have you even started this conversation? Nope. But you're like fully pledged, already resentful about this thing that hasn't even started.

Cristina Amigoni: Yeah, we are very skilled at creating scripts in our head about a conversation that hasn't happened yet. And some conversations will never even happen. So it's all projecting something and causing feelings, and reactions, and emotions that now impact the moment. So it's not impacting the conversation that hasn't happened or may never happen. It's impacting how we react to something around us.

Alex Cullimore: And I think it's a good way of thinking about how meta feelings can trap us. You think about like, “Well, I’d have to like ask them to take their shoes off the table,” and that's going to create a fight, and that's going to create – Like, now there's resentment for the future. So you're already angry. And you feel like you can't say anything because you know they're going to have X, Y, Z pushback. Now you are meta feeling about the fact there would be a secondary feeling is stopping you from even starting the conversation. And the longer it happens and the longer you let it go without even starting the conversation, the more it feels like that is a real reality that definitely is already somewhere in your subconscious happens. Even though in reality the other person may not even know you've started any thoughts on it.

Cristina Amigoni: So true. And then it also drives us to avoid conflict, which is a whole other podcast episode, that tendency to avoid conflict. Because we have created the entire movie script of what's going to happen when we actually bring up the difficult feeling, the difficult action, whatever happened that we want to avoid talking about. If we actually address what's going on, it ends there. That's all we can control. All we can control is this happened. This is how I felt. Or I’m worried about this happening. This is how I feel. That's it. That's our span of control. And yet we create these movie scripts that go into, “Well, this is how they're going to react. And that's what they're going to say. And therefore, this is what I’m going to say. And therefore, I’m going to get angry. And then I’m going to be ashamed of being angry. And then they're going to fire me, or exclude me, or never talk to me again. And then they'll talk badly about me to all my friends. And next thing I know, I will be deported. So I’m not going to bring up the shoes on the table.”

Alex Cullimore: And then you can go through that process, like, in your mind the first time. You kind of go through like the nine step processes between I have a mild piece of feedback to push back on and I get deported, right? You walk the ladder maybe the first time. But then your brain starts to make these mental shortcuts, like, heuristics about if I enter this type of conversation, I know the end. So I don't have to think about all the steps in between. And now later conversations, just something else happens. You don't even think about the nine steps. You're already like, “Ah, well, this means I get deported.” You can immediately connect something brand new to being deported. And these are where it starts to be really harmful to both yourself and your relationships, because now you've written scripts and your mind is shortcutting in pages when you have a new script being generated.

Alex Cullimore: And we are very sensitive to people that do get deported unfairly. So this is not a joke about that. It's just showing what fear does in our brain and how far we can go.

Alex Cullimore: And how quickly. It would definitely go just – I mean, if that's the fear, that's the fear. It might be deported. For other people, it might be losing a job. It might be just losing contact with somebody, or having to move, or anything, that any of these are whatever our brain is fearing. It's looking for ways to avoid. But also then has to try and create paths from where we are to that happening so it can avoid it.

Cristina Amigoni: Indeed. Yeah, it's really interesting how fast we go there. And I've been in a couple of situations lately, actually, where conversations have happened in, I would say, high stress, medium-level stress things. And the other person has actually shared, like, “Well, you said this, and this and this.” And I'm like, “I actually have never said that.” Not only have I not said that in that conversation. But I would never say it. Those are not sentences, or judgments, or questions, or expectations I would have. And so that's when I'm like, “Wait. What script are you functioning on from our conversation that is completely different from what I actually said?”

Alex Cullimore: Yeah. And that's when you know you're at the receiving end of somebody else's script. Like, "Oh, I'm sorry. Hold on what?" Well, you're going to act really angry about this. Like, I wasn't given the chance. And be, "No. Maybe not. I don't know. Now I guess –" And then it creates this extra layer of defensiveness, like how could you assume that? And now you've got feelings about having been that. Yeah, it can very quickly kind of spin out of control.

Alex Cullimore: Yes, very quickly. Because that's it. Now you're reacting to being accused of saying something that's not even something you were saying considering thinking or most likely would think or consider to do or say. And so now it's an attack. And instead of understanding what's actually going on behind whatever script you were just thrown into that wasn't exactly your own words, you're focused on defending yourself.

Alex Cullimore: Anytime we are defending, we're not really taking in new information. We're back on that one point and making sure that is put to bed, or that's just the point of focus now from here on. And it becomes another challenge on top of that to be like we have to be able to step out of this and address whatever the original topic of conversation was. And you can see how this happens in personal relationships as well as in the workplace. You've got any level of conversation where there can be disagreements. And disagreement will happen. It can quickly fall apart if it's not kind of carefully supported, empathized, to make sure you are addressing. If somebody suddenly seems like they're coming out strongly or if you feel it coming up in yourself, these strategies of being able to name it as well as being able to try and empathize with it or find ways to say like, "Oh, it seems like you have a big reaction to that. Is there something I’m missing here?" What should we address?

Cristina Amigoni: Yes. What's actually going on? And I’ve done this recently with my son, because he was – It was last weekend, and he came inside. He was upset. And started really getting very upset about the water filter in the fridge. And so – And whatever he was trying to do with getting water from the fridge. And so I fixed whatever was going on. And then I set him down. I’m like, "Okay, it's clearly not about the water filter in the fridge. So what's actually going on that's making you so frustrated, angry, hurt, whatever the right emotion is? It's not about the fridge. So let's address what's going on."

And then he shared, like, "Well, this happened with the friends. And they're not letting me play. And my ankle hurts. And they're purposely doing a running game instead of doing something where I can participate." And so we ended up unpacking that. But even just stopping his train from derailing helped, I hope, to realize like, "Hey, sometimes, we end up reacting or being angry to something that has nothing to do with what's actually causing the emotion."

Alex Cullimore:That's a really good signal of times when you are having that something meta feeling rise up. Why did I hit the fridge when the water filter didn't work? Why am I this upset about like the fact that I misplaced my keys or something? Or something seemingly innocuous kind of knocks this over. It's a good sign that something is unprocessed there.

Alex Cullimore: Yeah. So that's a meta feeling, because you're asking yourself why am I upset about the keys? But it's a meta feeling that can help you in the sense of like, "Oh, okay. Instead of going into judgment or shame that I’m upset about the keys, or doubling down on the anger, let's figure out like what's actually going on." Because keys – I mean, yes, sometimes possibly. But maybe it's because you're now going to run late for a client meeting because you're looking for the keys. And you didn't sleep last night. And you forgot to eat breakfast because the kids needed lunch prepared. And so you had to choose between one or the other. Who knows? But the keys most likely did not cause the end of the world that you're angry about.

Alex Cullimore: And it does take practice to kind of get down that trail, because that can be pretty deep. Like when you're talking about you start with keys. Well, I’m going to be late. Well, I didn't have breakfast. And maybe you've tied that to the ten thousand articles that people have online about like every successful person gets up at four and drinks protein shake within the first 20 minutes of being like – Whatever. I don't know what it is. But now you're like, "Well –"

Cristina Amigoni: Runs a marathon by 5am.

Alex Cullimore: Yeah, everybody I know definitely runs a marathon before 5am. But if we have that story attached now, what we're really upset about is this kind of feels like we are not living up to what we want to maybe. Maybe it's like a fear that we want to be successful, and this is a mark that we're not. It may not be easy to unpack that all in the moment. But as you unpack more of those, you can kind of reverse the train we were talking about earlier where you have a shortened script to whatever you're fearing. There's a shortened script to find ways out of these things. Like, "Oh, man, I’m really nervous about this." And if you really think about it, you're like, "Okay, well, one day, I missed breakfast. And that probably isn't actually indicative of my failure as a human being and eventual subsequent living under a bridge." I don't know. Whatever direction it goes.

Cristina Amigoni: In the bankruptcy of my company.

Alex Cullimore: Yeah.

Cristina Amigoni: Yeah, whatever it did.

Alex Cullimore: Scorned at my friends and family and –

Cristina Amigoni: Three worst case scenario is.

Alex Cullimore: Induction into the hall of shame.

Cristina Amigoni: Why am I being added there this week for? And can I surpass last week's level of shame? Kind of like a shame meter. It's like can I beat my own record? I’m sure we all work on that on a weekly basis on beating on our own record of shame. And the interesting part is like we've used keys. We've used morning routines that are fairly water filters. And yet how many times do we actually bring this into interaction with other humans? Whether they are family, workplace, close, not close, anything. We bring all of this cloud of whatever is going on to our interactions. And then we wonder why our teams don't talk to us, or people give notice without warning, or all the data that's coming out now especially in the last couple of years of this huge gap between – With the leaders thing, it's happening from a cultural perspective of what the employees actually say. So leaders are saying like, "Yes, 80% of employees are saying that this is a great place of work." And then when you actually ask the employees, it's 20% of them are actually saying this is a great place of work.

So a lot of that comes from this constant juggling of I’m feeling that. And I didn't pause enough to actually feel it. So I judge myself on that. And I’m taking it out on somebody else. About something that has nothing to do with the original trigger.

Alex Cullimore: You bring up a really good point about how much that ends up impacting. Like, if you're a leader, you're bringing that in. Now you might be putting off an aura that you're not approachable, right? You're upset about something. Or you come in and you're in a bad mood, and everybody knows like, "Yeah. But this might only last a day. But I can't – I’m not going to bring up any project issues today," right? Something like that. Now you've got like information starting to get hidden and starting to fall away. Or communication is starting to drop. And then you as leader are also saying – I think it's also easy to create better feelings about ourselves as leaders if we get trapped into things like thinking we have to have all the answers. Like, if we don't know what to do in a complex problem, that might just be a complex problem that needs a little bit more time, or you want input from some other people. But if you feel like you're the one that has to say it, there's a good chance you end up feeling resentful people aren't helping you. Or that it becomes so ambiguous. Or whatever is going to create the now resistance, which you bring that into a team, the team's going to respond. We're all listening with the hairs on the back of our neck for changes at all times for everybody's moods.

Cristina Amigoni: Yes. And then we're deciding. It's like a minefield. We're deciding what to share. What not to share? When to share it? If to share it at all based on the signals we're getting on the other side. It's like, "No. Not a good day to bring up that we're never going to make the go live. And so let's keep this a secret for a couple days and see how that impacts the project." And then it just snowballs into that.

I actually saw a part of a post today that was talking about how you can have different feelings at once. And the first line was that you can be humble and confident at the same time. And I started thinking about that specific combination. And I was like, "Well, it's interesting, because I think you actually have to be humble to be confident." Humility is a prerequisite of true confidence. Because if you're not humble to realize that I am human, I am never going to know everything. You then walk into the room with the confidence of, "I don't have to know everything. I just have to know that I can ask for help when needed. Receive help when asked. And figure things out as a team from other people when I hit my limitations," which we all have. So confidence is not arrogance. It's not I know everything, and I’m always going to know everything. That's not confidence.

 Alex Cullimore: That's a really interesting point about not only humility and confidence. Because I think there's also kind of an inverse relationship. If you kind of have to have some confidence to be humble for that, too. And if you find people who are not being humble, there's a good chance they don't feel internally confident even if they seem like it. That's probably where it's coming from. And it's interesting, because then you bring up confidence and arrogance.

And I think that's another one that it becomes important when you're doing this work for yourself to define some of these emotions and to read. And there are lists of them. We have a good worksheet that has some 400 different emotions you can have, or feelings. And having a little bit more specific word for it can truly help. Because if you just say confidence, it's the same way of saying like happy, angry, scared, whatever, right? Those are 99% of emotions. But there's of course all kinds of shades within those. And the shade is really important to get to. Because confidence might sound like arrogance. Like if you think, "Oh, that guy just came in with so much confidence," and like in the retelling of the story, what you're hearing maybe is that person was arrogant, right? So that's a tied one. And until you use the word or define it for yourself to know that, like, if I say confidence, I’m not saying going in there with a big head and deciding that this is how everything works. It's just that I feel comfortable. Whatever your definition of confidence is, having that and in knowing that arrogance is a different word helps us separate these, name them a little bit better, and give into that nuance so we can understand where things are coming from.

Cristina Amigoni: It can help tremendously, especially when we're looking at people within a workplace that are promoted to leaders. Because there is a misconception between a confident person and an arrogant person. The arrogant person is louder. Usually speaks more. It's more assertive. And so without actually unpacking that and looking behind the mask, those are the people that a lot of times get promoted to leaders. And they're the ones that lack the confidence to actually work with others, which last time I checked, unless you're in a different animal kingdom or planet, when you're leading, your whole point is to work with others.

Alex Cullimore: Leadership team of one is who are you leading? I guess, self-leadership? That is important. But maybe don't have direct reports.

Cristina Amigoni: And maybe don't, for everybody's sake.

Alex Cullimore: So as a leader, this is doubly important, right? It's not only they should have to be aware of this for yourself. It goes back to kind of what you're saying earlier of ending up at the other end of somebody's script. This person is having a reaction I didn't expect. Or like, "Oh, wow! They're saying that I said or I’m trying something that I don't think I’ve done." We have to be aware on both fronts about like, okay, not only is something bubbling up for me, but keeping a close eye out for when it's bubbling up for other people. And if you, as a leader, start to exemplify how something's bubbling up for me, I’m feeling stressed about this, or, "Oh, man, that's really going to impact our project timeline." It's okay to have frustration and anger. If you're taking it down your team, that will not pay dividends. But you're not going to win by suppressing frustration. You just have to choose how you're going to react to being frustrated.

Cristina Amigoni: Yeah. There's no such thing. As Susan Davis says all the time, you can't ignore emotions. They're not going to go away if you ignore them. They're not going to go away if you push them down. They're actually going to grow exponentially.

Alex Cullimore: There's a book, it's called Why Don't Zebras Have Nightmares? Why Don't Zebras Have Trauma? or something like that. But it's talking about how the emotional cycle gets completed in the animal kingdom? If you think about things like zebras, gazelles, or just out on safari looking calm all day and then something, the lion pops along and they had to sprint away. Anyone who has had a near death experience can attest, it's something that really sticks with you, right? And as humans we tend to hold on to that. And then it becomes kind of a piece of drama. And we might use it or think about it in a different way.

I’ve heard examples of people who are in the same car accident, but one has had trauma for many years. The other one doesn't. We all have a different reaction. But either way, we have a reaction. And back to the zebra point, which is where I started on this, the animals tend to like they run away. They get to safety. And then there's been observed a lot of times where the animals will go into kind of like a – What almost looks like a seizure, a little convulsion, shake everything out, because they're completing the stress cycle. So the emotion has started. It's not going to go away. It will finish one way or another. And if we suppress it, it's going to finish a lot more spectacularly than maybe it would have if we just let it go through.

Cristina Amigoni: Yes. Fireworks moment.

Alex Cullimore: Which is to say there are times when you have to hold something back and wait. But it's worth remembering that you held something back so you can go back and try to address that in fairly short order for exactly what you're saying. It doesn't become something bigger.

Cristina Amigoni: Well, and that's a great point, because the way for us to release it is also physical. We're still animals, whether we like it or not. And so what the animal's body does automatically, which we have learned to repress, as many other things in terms of repress, is the physically let it out. So some of the suggestions that work is that go for a walk. You're feeling this emotion bubbling up. Maybe you can't go for a walk right now in the middle of the meeting, even though I’ve done that. And maybe if you're feeling that struggle emotion, you should. Or you should have at least a colleague that points it out and be like, "You know what? Let's take a pause and take a break for the next 10 minutes to kind of allow for that." But go for a walk. Like, physically release it.

As I tell my kids, I’m like, "If you're that angry get a pillow and scream in the pillow. Punch the pillow." I mean, don't let your anger out so that it hurts another human or animal. But find ways. Go for a run. Whatever the physical way is. Get a punching bag for your basement. Anything.

Alex Cullimore: And these are perfect examples of letting that emotion out and choosing your reaction, right? You know you're feeling frustrated, and you choose to scream into a pillow, right? Because choosing to scream at everybody close to you probably hasn't worked for you very well in the past. Like just go out on a limb and say that a lot of people are not feeling great about this.

Cristina Amigoni: I imagine. Yeah, try to avoid that. But fight something else. Get a stuffed animal. Get in your car. Turn on the volume as high as you can and then scream. I mean, we see it in movies and TV shows all the time where people find that moment of frustration and will go in the New York Subway and wait for a train to go by when it's the loudest moment ever and then scream as loud as possible when the train is going by. Find a way to release it. It has to come out.

Alex Cullimore: That is a perfect example of both releasing it. And 100% New Yorker way of dealing with emotions. Does everybody – Actually, you tell people you live in New York. They're like, "Oh, it's just so crowded there. I could never do it." No, you just kind of get used to things being around. And you take advantage of things like this really loud squealing train that will deafen everybody in the vicinity for the next 10 seconds is now my time to scream, because I can't do it in my apartment because somebody's one thin wall away.

Cristina Amigoni: Because somebody will call the police. Or you go swimming. I’ve screamed under water. That's another thing you could do, is scream underwater. It releases a lot of energy. So the energy is moving. We're made of energy. Let the energy out somehow. Again, not other humans. And it's going to come out at other humans. If you don't let it out when you need to and when you have acknowledged it, it will come out. It'll come out in how you respond, how you don't respond, how you look, how you walk into the room and all of a sudden the energy has just shifted to like, "Okay, everybody shut up. Not the day."

 Alex Cullimore: Yep. And I like the whole idea of the physical reactions, too. And that's a great way if you're having trouble identifying emotions, which is very common, because a lot of people have repressed things for a long time or just aren't used to identifying these things, is documenting for yourself. Either you're literally writing it down or just continually paying attention to where you felt an emotion, right? So then you start to be able to recognize it again. And now you have a chance of being like – You now recognize like I feel nervous in my stomach. But you're feeling angry in your head and you're like, "But that started with that nervous feeling. Now you probably have some meta feeling about having been nerves."

Cristina Amigoni: Yes. Yeah. That's a great point, is your body will have both physical reactions. And it's about like which one was first. I’m nauseous, and I feel a knot in my throat. Nauseous value just got challenged. And I’m really in the wrong position. And not in my throat is I feel ashamed that I am in this position. I feel ashamed that I’m not speaking up. I’m feeling ashamed of whatever. The throat could be a shame trigger of what I’m feeling.

Alex Cullimore: Yeah. And then you get a choice to not let the doped-up shame Olympian win the gold this time.

Cristina Amigoni: Maybe let – I don't know. Joy win the gold. Peace? Content?
Alex Cullimore: The other really powerful portion of it is when you start to realize there would be even more choice. Like, if I realized I’m having a feeling about a feeling I don't need to feel angry about, feeling worried. Then you can go back to feeling worried. You're making a choice there. And once you're addressing that worry, now you have the choice to start to see what logically started that. And what's the likely outcome? Now you're assessing this on a totally different level. People like to think that we're very much logical. But you can't get there until you've sometimes gone around these emotions. And if you're already having emotions about emotions, you might have a couple layers to get to start having that logical processing.

Cristina Amigoni: Best tip we can have for that is to start writing it down. Actually, start journaling. And then like this is what happened. What was the trigger? This is what happened. This is what I felt. This is the name of the emotion. This is the emotion of the emotion. And start looking for patterns.

Alex Cullimore: Yes. I've heard so many people. Like, I find a lot of help in journaling. So I started telling people like, "Yeah, I really like journaling. I would recommend trying it." And lot of that is pushback. I get things like, "Well, I know what happened to me. Why would I write down the things that happened to me?" I’m like, "First of all, not necessarily what I’m saying you should journal. And secondly, do you know what happened to you? Or do you know the story you've told yourself 48 times since that happened?"

Cristina Amigoni: That you're still holding on to because you haven't gone through the actual externalization of it.

Alex Cullimore: I recently had an experience like you were talking about, where somebody came at me pretty strong for a bunch of things. I was like, "Ah, never said that one."

Cristina Amigoni: I know.

Alex Cullimore: "Oh, okay. All right." And both Rachel and I were kind of reacting to this. We were staring, like, "Wow! Okay. Neither must have said any of the things that we're now being like accused of." Like, "Okay. All right. Okay." But again, if you think about it, that person in journaling would have said like, "Well, this is exactly what happened." It's not really what happened. That's the story you've now told yourself about what happened. And that becomes a fine line between you both frustrating somebody else and gaslighting them. They've said something they haven't.

Cristina Amigoni: That's the best part. Yeah. I keep seeing all sorts of definitions of gaslighting and manipulations. And I’m like, "This is happening a lot in daily life. Isn't it?" But it's amazing. And that's the thing. Like in the journal, yes. Like, it's good to talk about and to journal about the trigger. But the point of the journaling is about the feelings, not what actually happened. It's like this is not a news story. We're not trying to write a documentary. We're just saying how did we feel. And why did we feel that way?

Alex Cullimore: And I love that point, because it's not about the immediate factual retelling. Although I feel like, often, if you can get through and understand the feelings, then you end up creating more of a new story. Explaining like, "Oh, no. This is what happened. And this kind of started from here. And that's actually creating these resentful things and whatever." And now you end up with what becomes a journalistic, almost article, about your own thoughts where it started as, "I just need to kind of let this one out."

Cristina Amigoni: Exactly. All right. Well, go have fun with your meta feelings. Let us know how many you get. Maybe we should do like a meta feelings bingo. Who gets to the end of bingo. But, yeah, closer.

Alex Cullimore: Definitely like five different tiles that are just shame.

Cristina Amigoni: Is it joy? Anger? Frustration? Depression? Sadness? Shame? Content Alex Cullimore: And listen for the times you're thinking you should. I shouldn't feel this way. I should feel that. That's when you know that you're in a second loop at that point.

Cristina Amigoni: That's your meta feeling.

Alex Cullimore: Go forth. Let us know if you have any questions. We love talking about these things. So anytime, any questions, any thoughts, please feel free to share. And otherwise, I hope this is helpful. And you enjoy.

Cristina Amigoni: Yeah, enjoy.


Cristina Amigoni: Thank you for listening to Uncover the Human, a Siamo podcast.

Alex Cullimore: Special thanks to our podcast operations wizard, Jake Lara; and our score creator, Raechel Sherwood.

Cristina Amigoni: If you have enjoyed this episode, please share, review and subscribe. You can find our episodes wherever you listen to podcasts.

Alex Cullimore: We would love to hear from you with feedback, topic ideas or questions. You can reach us at podcast, or at our website,, LinkedIn, Instagram or Facebook. We Are Siamo is spelled W-E A-R-E S-I-A-M-O.

Cristina Amigoni: Until next time, listen to yourself, listen to others and always uncover the human.