Updated: Sep 30, 2021
Emotions can be messy, confusing, and uncomfortable things. So many of us repress our emotions. Who wants to review hurtful and uncomfortable issues anyway? We can ruminate or indulge in our emotions, and have the script play out in our minds again and again of how we have been hurt. We can act out or lash out. Our overwhelm, frustration, or feelings of being done wrong by can lead to agitation or aggression. Lastly, we can vent our emotions, where we take all our feelings and dump them on to the people closest to us in hopes that, that will make us feel better. Is there a more effective approach?
I'd like to suggest that our emotions are actually an under accessed resource. Like the nervous systems, our emotional system serves as a valuable reservoir of messages intended to serve us. If you lay your hand on a hot oven, what message is being given to your body? Move your hand! The emotional system is quite similar. The discomfort of negative emotions is a signal to move! Unfortunately, we only really change when we are uncomfortable. So our negative emotions are supposed to feel bad, not so that we continue to feel bad, but so that we recognize the need to make a change to feel better, genuinely better.
So what needs to be changed? Typically the change falls into one of three categories: our perspectives, our habits, or both. Take a look at the last upsetting situation you had, and ask yourself the following questions to gain clarity as to where the need for change may be residing. What was the emotion? I recommend using a feeling wheel to get clear on this. It's surprising what emotions are really rumbling right below the surface. What is the story I am telling myself? What did I perceive about myself? What are the rules I have for myself in this situation? Are the rules fair? Are the rules realistic? What did I perceive about the other person? What else could their actions have meant? What are my rules for them? Do they know these rules? Are these rules fair to them? How could I communicate my feelings, needs, expectations better? Challenge your perspectives and adjust your rules so that they are fair, accurate, and reflect your values and character. Examine your habits or how you do things. Is there a better way to achieve your results?
Play the situation out in your head again, but this time see it the way you would like to it go next time. Play out another potential situation that could be similar, and see that flow the way you would like it to go. See yourself following through with the process and the demeanor that reflects your character and values.
Appreciate the emotional system you have and notice how it really does serve you to bring out your best and helps you achieve results.