Emotions are like…
Emotions are like…
What the hell are emotions like?
Sometimes emotions feel like a scab that keeps getting knocked off.
Sometimes they feel like a bouquet of fragrant roses.
Sometimes they feel like being on a roller coaster.
And sometimes they feel like sunshine washing over you.
One thing I do know is experiencing, feeling, and accepting the emotion, whether good or bad, is non-negotiable. I spent many years doing everything possible to numb any emotion that came along. As a young child, emotions were things I perceived as being unwelcome. We didn’t talk about emotions in my family, that I remember. When we were angry, we were sent to our rooms. I know my experience is not too different from many other families.
As I became an adult, there were often times when I would experience an emotion, and I didn’t always have a name for that emotion. Was it anger? Hurt? Sadness? I thought I was the only one who was so stupid that I had no name for what I was feeling. So I numbed the emotions. Drinking. Drinking. Drinking. If you drink, you don’t have to acknowledge those emotions.
And for 40 years or more, I didn’t acknowledge them. Didn’t deal with them. Didn’t name them.
Until it was either drink myself to death or face them. The roller coaster, the roses, the sunshine, the scabs.
I recently listened to a podcast from Lori Harder’s podcast, Earn Your Happy. (If you aren’t subscribed, you should be!) She made a comment that I thought was totally brilliant. It made so much sense to me, and I’m not sure I would have understood it 14 years ago.
Let feelings be visitors.
That’s it. Let them visit. Don’t kick them out when they stop at your house. Don’t let them move in. Just let them visit.
So how do you do that? How do you let emotions just visit? How can you learn and grow as a result of knowing them?
Notice, Experience, and Accept
Notice the Feeling
If you run on autopilot like I find myself doing sometimes. Or to be honest, most times. The first thing to do is notice that there is a feeling. What is the feeling? Where is it? Is it in your gut? Is it in your heart? What are the physiological effects of the feeling? What are the thoughts that run through your head when you notice this feeling?
Does it have a name?
Experience the Feeling: Good or Bad
Allow yourself to experience the feeling. Stuffing them, masking them, and denying them are not beneficial responses. Trust me when I say that. I did it for many years. All it does is delay the inevitable. Those feelings will actually hang around in your cells and wreak havoc until you deal with them.
Accept The Feeling
It’s also important to accept your emotions. You don’t have to let them take over your life. Let them visit! You don’t even have to like your feelings. All you need to do is accept that, right now, this is the way you feel.
Once we have gone through these steps, then we can decide what to do. We can choose to feel differently. We can choose happiness instead of sadness. We can choose understanding rather than anger. But we can’t skip the previous steps.
Emotions are celebrated and repressed, analyzed and medicated, adored and ignored — but rarely, if ever, are they honored.
We can choose different reactions and responses. We can employ strategies to help us deal with negative emotions and we can notice what it takes to hang on to the positive emotions longer. Just some real quick actions I have learned that have supported me along the journey to understanding my emotions:
Keep a gratitude journal
Write down how an emotion physically affects you
Talk to your coach about the feeling
Move your body
Serve someone else
Only until we learn to live with the emotions, ride the roller coaster, and bask in the sunshine of emotions will we really understand how to move through the emotions and use them to make our lives better, no matter what.