Some emotions get a bad rap. You know the ones I mean. Those that get branded negative, the ones that don’t feel good when we feel them in our bodies. Emotions like anger, resentment, fear, or disgust, are ones that people don’t enjoy, and often try to avoid.
I’m a mindset coach, and one of the things I help people do is explore different perspectives. If we have deeply held beliefs that are not serving us, then it can be quite beneficial to shift the way that we’re thinking. A common misperception that happens is that clients want to change how they feel, without first acknowledging the emotions they already feel.
It makes sense. Of course we don’t want to feel hard emotions. Who does? But suppressing those emotions takes a lot of energy, and robs us of part of the rich tapestry of the human experience. Imagine if an artist created her paintings with only the middle tones of colors, leaving the most vibrant colors on either end of the spectrum out of the picture. We wouldn’t get the full experience, would we?
Start Where You Are
We cannot change how we feel until we process the emotions we are already experiencing. And it’s important to remember that ALL of our emotions are okay. They are what they are. People don’t control their emotions. Our emotions arise to show us what we’re thinking. Our emotions arrive with the message to pay attention – become aware – of the thoughts we are choosing. (Spoiler alert: our thoughts CREATE our emotions!)
So if you feel angry, disappointed, or hurt. Allow yourself to FEEL angry, disappointed or hurt. Sit with the feeling. Acknowledge it. Instead of resisting challenging emotions, allow them to be what they are – sensations in our body. Practice describing the physical sensations you feel when you feel the emotion. Then try “being with” the emotion by focusing on the physical sensations.
Example: fear to speak in public might feel to some people like sweaty palms, increased heart rate, tight shoulders. If that’s the case, focus on the palms, the heart, the shoulders, without attaching the story of public speaking. Observe the physical sensations objectively, and they begin to subside.
For a more active method of processing emotions, find a safe space, set a timer and give yourself 15 or 20 minutes to just be obsessed, or throw a fit or have a tantrum. Scream into your pillow, or beat it up. Vomit the voices in your head onto pages you can burn later. Your inner child is asking to be heard and is not going to let you feel content again until you give yourself some space to process those emotions. Cry if you need to. Let yourself rage until the timer goes off.
You’ll be surprised and delighted how quickly the intensity of the emotion can dissipate.
If your emotions feel too big to handle on your own, like they might swallow you if you let yourself be alone with them, then find a wonderful therapist to create that safe space with you.
Avoiding or suppressing our emotions cannot destroy that catabolic energy.
It simply transfers that energy somewhere else. It’s like holding a beach ball underwater, eventually it’s going to pop back up with a lot of force. Many times when we try to suppress anger,
or resentment that energy gets even heavier and shows up as shame, depression,
If we try to suppress fear, and brush it off as nothing, we could learn that we’re in actual danger and our intuition was giving us a very important message. I like to ask my anger or my disappointment what it’s trying to tell me. If you are feeling angry about something, there is a reason for that anger, and only you know what that reason is. What is your anger trying to tell you? (Hint: it’s NOT that someone else needs to shape up.)
Processing our emotions is important.
This is not the same as directing our emotions at somebody else. We can’t spill anger, frustration and irritation on others and expect them to process it for us. They are not responsible for our emotions any more than we are responsible for theirs! If this has been your experience of hard emotions – people directing them at you, or others around you – it makes perfect sense that you would want to suppress them, or that you would see them as harmful or scary. Anyone would feel that way. Processing our emotions is an introspective thing, meaning it is a mirror to look into in order to learn more about our own mind, and improve our own experience of life.
Trying to shift mindset without processing emotions first is like putting a happy-face sticker on a gas gauge so you can’t see that the tank is empty. It looks better on the surface but doesn’t address the underlying cause!
Once we have accepted that we have challenging emotions (as all humans do), then we can process them. Once we have processed our emotions, then we can begin to shift our mindset so that we attract better feeling emotions!
How comfortable are you feeling all of your emotions?
How comfortable are you expressing all of your emotions?
What emotions are you suppressing?
How might that be affecting your life?
This is a process I help my clients with all the time! If you are ready to transform your life, please contact me at this link to schedule a short conversation. I look forward to connecting with you.