Emotions, do they really help us or just get in the way?
In a world where we don’t really know what tomorrow, next week, next month or next year will look like its so important that we acknowledge our emotions. Just like the quote above, ‘witness it, allow it’ and then most importantly ‘release it.’
I did a CPD (Continual professional Development) on ‘Grief’ recently with Dipti Tait, who is well known in the Solution Focused Hypnotherapy circle and has written a book explaining how she has coped with her own grief.
When we think of grief I am sure that most of us would think ‘oh, that’s when someone has died’ but its interesting, when we started delving into what is grief, we found that we can grieve many different events in our lives:
Loosing our single status when we get married
Having a baby and loosing ourselves
Moving to a new house or country
These are just a few and I am sure you can think of more that we can add to the list. As you can see, these aren’t situations where we would ordinarily connect grief and sadness. However, on some level, most people will at some time be grieving the loss of who they once were. The transformation and inevitable change that occurs when we move through life.
Do you connect with your emotions?
“Our emotions are our messengers.’ Britney Carmicheal
When we don’t connect with these emotions, we can become unstuck and struggle with anxiety, depression and more. These emotions are described as ‘flags’ or ‘arrows’ that are highlighting to us that we need some extra support and help. By acknowledging the emotions and not becoming the emotion we are able to move through these difficult times. When we react to the anger, sadness or hurt that we may feel it can become even more destructive in our lives. Sitting and looking at the emotion, being nicely curious, and this takes time and practice, as do any worthwhile tools. It allows us to recognise where the emotion is starting from and what is fuelling it. Often its not the face value incident its something deeper that needs care and attention.
“Feelings are much like waves,
we can't stop them from coming
but we can choose which one to surf.”
― Jonatan Mårtensson
Susan David a psychologist and consultant has dedicated her career to encouraging people to “unhook themselves from unhelpful patterns of thought and behaviour.” She has called this ‘emotional agility’. I have included Susan David’s talk that is enlightening and informative.
How to start on your journey to validating your emotions
1. Take a couple of deep breaths – we can’t be relaxed and angry, sad or anxious at the same time
2. Recognise what sets you off – When you can pre-empt when or where you will have these emotions then you are back in control; you now have a choice, an opportunity for change. For example, a client of mine found her parents controlling and always negative whether she visited them, or they came to her house and she became, angry and defensive, by acknowledging in advance how they usually made her feel she was able to change her responses and therefore, change her experience with them. This does take time and needs practising over and over till it becomes your new way of being.
3. Emotions are the flags – Remember that the emotion is just a warning sign or gauge that something needs attention.
4. Own your emotions – Take charge of your emotions, recognise them and deal with them. If you had a toddler screaming on the floor you would act; – Whether you let them scream it out in safety or sit and talk with them once they are calm. Remember that’s all this is, your “primitive and emotional mind” is having a tantrum for one reason or another.
5. Notice the feeling – Recognise the emotion and be careful with your language, when we say “I am angry/sad/depress/anxious etc. then this makes it sound like we are the emotion. Remember that the emotion is just a signal and we need to ask what is it telling us and what do we need to do? I.m feeling anger/ sadness/worried.
On my course with Dipti Tait she explained a mindfulness tool that can be useful it’s called the ABC of Emotions
A – Acknowledge – be aware of the emotion, how it makes you feel and why? Is it really because the guy cut you up on the road this morning or because you spilt your tea? Or is there something else that’s making you snappy and short? Maybe your scared of something, a new opportunity, changes that are happening, or you’re not understanding why a friend hasn’t responded? By acknowledging the emotion you can then re frame your response.
B – Bridge – getting from the emotion to the happy place a bit like in the ‘Three Billy Goats Gruff’ you have to get from one side to the other without encountering the ‘troll’ your 'emotions changing into actions'. (shouting, screaming, etc)
C – Convert – Emotions can be powerful and all consuming, by validating them and acknowledging them you are able to work with them, rather than the emotions taking control. For example; your child or partner is late home and you feel angry, worried and concerned, but they may be feeling elated when they walk through the door, they have made it home at last. If you go at them with anger, the situation will fall apart. Recognise that this anger comes from a place of love, concern and care and then you can show compassionate, still getting your point across but from a place of love and calm.
By taking these approaches its not about, not talking to someone who has annoyed you or upset you, its about doing it without all of the unnecessary or wrong energy attached, where we say the wrong things and act in the wrong ways. Gradually, as you practice these tools, you will be able to have a candid and successful conversation when you can recognise your own emotions before you unload them onto someone else.
An analogy or metaphor for this would be to imagine your emotions are sugar lumps and they are in your mug (emotional bucket) when you add the hot tea (our tools) you begin to dissolve and dilute the emotions, they haven’t gone but they are more bearable now and you are able to cope with them better.
In Solution Focused Hypnotherapy we talk a lot about our ‘Stress Bucket’ which is metaphorically in our head, and when our bucket gets full it overflows and this is when we get symptoms e.g. headaches, anxiety, depression, insomnia etc. By using these tools, you can begin to empty your own bucket and learn how to keep it empty, so you sleep well, feel happier and healthier. It puts you back in control.
Acknowledging our emotions is essential, dwelling and living in them is not.
“Courage is not an absence of fear, it is fear walking.” Susan David
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