Our emotions can sometimes overwhelm us.
As an emotional person myself, I decided early on that my job was to repress what I considered to be the “bad” emotions so that I wouldn’t be a bad person. I strove to deny any feelings of irritation, anger, jealousy, anxiety, hurt or blame. It didn’t work.
When we bottle up our emotions or minimize them, they don’t just go away.
They get stuck inside us and build up. Then, they may come out in an explosion, or get buried deeper. Buried feelings often get covered up with self-defeating activities like over-eating, shopping, substance abuse or other risky behavior. They can also manifest as disease in the body.
Outward explosions can include projecting what we don’t like about ourselves onto others.
In my case, my buried feelings would usually come out as an explosion of temper over something that didn’t warrant that kind of response. That would then send me into a spiral of self-recrimination. In my mind, I’d become that bad person I didn’t want to be. My emotions had control over me, not the other way around.
Fortunately, I discovered the truth about emotions.
Emotions are neither good nor bad. They’re actually our internal guidance system, letting us know where we stand in relation to what we want to create in our lives.
Our feelings have a message for us. And the reality is, no one gets through life without experiencing anger, hurt, anxiety, jealousy and so on.
Even if you think you “shouldn’t” be feeling what you’re feeling, allow it.
Your emotions are real, so release the need to judge them. You don’t choose your emotions, even though many of us were given the impression that we do, as children. Having a feeling is not the same as acting on it.
The first step in working constructively with your emotions is to allow and acknowledge, with complete honesty to yourself, what you are feeling.
This is what therapist Tina Gilbertson calls “constructive wallowing.”
Find a safe, private space and allow some time to just “be” with your emotions.
Name the emotion you’re experiencing. Breathe, allow your body to relax and realize it’s perfectly okay to feel what you feel. If you need to cry, do it.
When you fully acknowledge your feelings instead of fighting with them, they transform.
Once you’ve named the feeling and sat with it, practice compassionate self-talk.
Say things you would say to a friend.
Try things like,
- “No wonder you’re upset.”
- “I’m so sorry you’re going through a hard time.”
- “I’m here for you.”
- “You’re so brave.”
- “I forgive you.”
A mistake many people make is to try to jump into positive thinking before they’ve actually allowed themselves to identify and allow their true feelings.
No amount of positive thinking will bring results until you’ve faced your unresolved emotions and inner wounds. What we resist, persists!
It can feel scary at first, to actually feel your deepest feelings, but with practice it becomes easier.
When you allow them and understand why you (a good person) would have them, rather than resist them, you open to the message they have, and they dissipate quickly.
Seek the help of a qualified therapist or coach if you need support in this journey.
Estra Roell, Life Purpose Coach – www.americaslifepurposecoach.com
When we feel we can’t handle our emotions, we might be more inclined to avoid dealing with them.
Here is the thing about emotions, the more we fight against them, the more intense they become.
It may seem like a good idea to avoid, ignore, or deny our emotions, especially when they feel really overwhelming.
The reality is that when we do this, it might bring temporary relief, but we will eventually feel this emotion and it will be more intense and harder to manage than if we had allowed ourself to feel the emotion in its entirety at the time.
The opposite of avoiding our emotions would be to practice radical acceptance around them.
This is an idea that is utilized in Dialectical Behavior Therapy, created by Marsha Linehan.
To radically accept an emotion means that we have to bring our awareness to it as it is.
We don’t have to like the way it feels, but we accept that the way we feel is the current reality.
By accepting our emotions, we can allow ourselves to “ride the wave of the emotion” as it is in that moment, allowing ourselves to move with the emotion rather than against it.
This is a practice. It may not come easily at first. In fact, it may be very difficult to sit with your emotions rather than turn away from them.
I often encourage the people I work with to find a way to sit with their emotions that feels right for them.
This could be something like journaling or meditating.
You may need to start by keeping a mood and emotion journal that helps you bring your awareness to your emotions so that you can begin to face them head on.
Radically accepting our emotions, and thus sitting with the discomfort of them is not easy and should be accompanied by other coping skills.
If you are prone to high intensity emotions, this is especially true. As you become better at accepting the way that you are feeling, you will also notice that you will find more effective ways of coping.
As you work towards that place of building awareness and knowing what you need, try out some different coping skills such as mindful coloring, going for a walk, journaling, listening to music, or talking with a friend or family member.
As you work on building this practice of radically accepting your emotions, you might notice statements coming up such as, “I shouldn’t be feeling this way”.
Gently remind yourself that your emotions are valid and they deserve to be attuned too.
When you start to pay attention to them in the moment and accept that you are feeling the way you are feeling, the intensity of your emotions and the duration of them, may decrease.
You will always have emotions, and by practicing radical acceptance, you will be able to manage them more effectively.
Leslie Weisgram, LMHC – www.leslieweisgramtherapy.com