05 Apr DEALING WITH DIFFICULT EMOTIONS
A diamond sparkles, splinters, dazzles and distorts. Light passes through its multiple “facets”, and is splayed back out into the world in a variety of rainbow colors. Like a diamond, we humans are imperfect. We ingest our life experiences through our multiple “facets.” We splinter and distort these life events into our own truth and then project that back into the world. Our truth becomes our unique beauty.
When we process an experience we give it meaning and context, assign judgment and emotion and then tuck it carefully away in the back of our minds. When a similar experience emerges in our life, we use this past memory (and all of the meaning and construct we assigned to it) to give us a template from which to react. This can be helpful in certain situations (i.e. hot running water = be careful not go get burned), or unhelpful in others (i.e. this guy asked me out on a date – but my last relationship ended badly so now I’m filled with anxiety.)
When we experience a negative emotion that is triggered from past events, we can use several avoidance devices as a way to help us cope with our feelings. We can project our own faults on to another, accusing them of something we ourselves are guilty of. We can employ denial, so we do not have to face or feel the emotions that threaten to consume us. Denial can lead to repression, or even dissociation. We can even distort our perceptions and use passive aggression to control or manipulate those around us. Or, we can pour all of our energy into controlling one person or task, when we have no control over someone or something else. And of course we can always numb ourselves to our pain through all sorts of addictions.
When difficult emotions attempt to overwhelm us, and we do not want to fall into the “avoidance device” trap. We need to consider our options for confronting, processing and allowing these feelings to unfold. These feelings have a stake inside of you and just like hunger pains, they need to be heard and attended to. There are many devices and self-help articles out there to guide you through this process, however, what it really comes down to, is building a relationship with yourself. The best way to do this is to start a conversation with you.
- Feel into it: When a difficult event, emotion, trigger or person comes into your life and you find yourself flooded with intense emotions, it is best to just sit and allow yourself to feel. Sometimes this can be too much. If that is the case then get up and go for a walk, find yourself something to do until you can come back later and try again. Little by little, allow yourself to feel. As you do this, the intensity of the emotion should start to lessen and it will become easier. If you are experiencing an acute tragedy, it may take a while to get to a place where this is even possible. Just take it at your own pace. It’s important to know that these emotions will pass eventually, you just need to breathe and get through them a minute at a time.
- Start a conversation: Once you have managed to sit with your feelings, begin to dialogue with them. Ask questions. What is this feeling? Anger? Rage? Sadness? Depression? Anxiety? As you question the feeling, you will know when you hit your target when the emotion itself reacts. When you say, “I think I’m feeling angry,” and you feel the emotion shift or dissipate entirely then you will know you are successful. As you continue this dialogue you will find once you can name and determine the source of your pain, the acknowledgement alone can reduce its intensity too much lower, more manageable levels.
- Recognize expectations and judgments: Once you have determined what you are feeling then you can determine why you are feeling it. Many times these feelings may appear because our expectations were not met or we have strong judgments that have caused our strong reactions. You may want to look at these expectations and judgments more closely. Are they serving you? Can you change them? Is the expectation or judgment worth holding onto? Is this a matter of pride? By dialing down to the core reason for your emotional state you may find that you have a lot of power in determining what you are upset about. If it is not something worth letting go of, then don’t. The point is you get to choose what to hold onto and what you do not.
- Determine what you need: The next step is to determine what you need. Again, question yourself and see what reactions you get. Do you require an apology? Do you need forgiveness? Do you want a hug? Do you need an explanation? You will know you found the right answer when you feel it. Once you have determined what you need, next, decide if it is something you can give to yourself. If it is, then give it. For example maybe you need to forgive yourself for a mistake you made before you can seek forgiveness from others. Maybe you need courage to stand up for yourself and ask for an apology from someone else. In any case, determine what you need so you can release the negative energy inside of yourself. If what you need is not something you can give yourself, and you cannot get this need met through another, then determine what the next best thing is and give that to yourself. By stepping up and taking care of your own needs, you will build self-trust and self-reliance, which can ultimately result in increased self-esteem and self worth.
In the end, the relationship that you build with yourself is the most important relationship you can have. By learning how to feel, communicate and validate your own needs and feelings, you can minimize use of “avoidance devices” and instead take control over your reactions to the world around you. When you experience internal harmony the events of the outside world can still cast their shadow, but the light from within you will shine bright like a diamond.
Please feel free to reach out to me if you are interested in exploring more of your emotions and how to process them. I would love to explore a path for you that would have more clarity and happiness
Wishing you all the best on your journey.