Many of our emotions don’t feel good – like anger, anxiety, shame, fear, jealousy – so it makes sense that many of us want to push them away, trying to not feel them.
However, your life will work much better once you choose to welcome all feelings without judgment. Keeping in mind that there are no good or bad feelings, there are JUST feelings. They are all ok, they are energy in motion. The more you are able to welcome them and be curious about them, the better you fare.
All emotions are essential messengers, they are your inner GPS, letting you know if your life is on course or not. Suppressing, denying or ignoring them will leave you without an internal guidance system, making it impossible to create a good life for yourself.
All emotions are ok, but of course, it is not ok to express emotions in an irresponsible, violent, or hurtful way.
Most of us grew up in homes where certain feelings were unwelcome. For example, you might have grown up in a family where showing anger was not acceptable, so now each time you feel angry, you might think that that is not ok. You might be tempted to push it away, ignore it, get a tub of ice-cream, or replace your anger with another emotion.
In the past, I have been a master at replacing my anger with sadness. Growing up, I internalized the message that my tears were more acceptable than my rage. It took me quite a while, and some therapy, to realize that often when I was sobbing, I was really angry.
All our emotions are teachers. For example, anger is a messenger letting you know that something is off and needs attention. It is like an alarm system going off, saying, “Warning, warning, this is not working, adjustments are needed”. The required adjustments might be outward changes (like, setting boundaries or ending a toxic relationship), or it might be that you need to make inward changes (like, changing your expectations or attitude).
Or, let’s look at what jealousy can teach you. For most of us, jealousy is not easy to welcome, simply because it feels yucky. However, jealousy is an important component of your internal GPS, because it gives you essential information on what you might be missing and longing for. Once you have understood its message, you can be purposeful about integrating those things in your life. Furthermore, jealousy can teach you about the futility of comparing yourself to others and highlights the importance of living YOUR best life, whilst being compassionate and supportive towards others and yourself in that process.
These are just two examples, but all of our emotions are precious and important guides, and once you slow down, refuse to act impulsively, become curious and ask what their underlying message is, they can become your allies.
Do you want to learn how to harness the power of emotions in your life? If yes, here is a simple three-step process:
The first step
is to become a non-judgmental, curious observer of your emotions, wanting to understand their message. To welcome them all with openness, knowing that none of them poses a threat to you in any way.
They are just energy, coming and going. Each emotion comes like a wave, peaks, and if you don’t hook into it, will have no choice but to soften and disappear.
In my mind, I now hear you say now, “But Daniela, how do I hook into it?” Great question, I am glad you asked!
You don’t hook into your emotions by practicing the non- judgmental coming and going of emotions.
When an emotion arises, visualize that you switch your internal “curiosity switch” on, greet the emotion by saying, “Welcome, cherished guide, what are you here to teach me today?” Continue taking deep breaths, allow yourself to feel the emotion. You will find, that this internal willingness will allow your emotions to flow through you.
My favorite picture is to visualize my emotions as clouds, simply coming and going. Some of them are big ominous rain clouds (for me that would be intense feelings of shame or rage), and others are small, fluffy white clouds I barely notice.
The second step
is to NOT ACT ON YOUR EMOTION, take a step back, continue being curious, treat yourself to a time-out, reflect on your emotions. You can journal, talk it over with a trusted friend or your therapist, and figure out what the underlying message of this emotion is.
All of your emotions are precious guides when you take time to discover their deeper message.
For example, recently I went through a period where I felt quite overwhelmed by life’s demands. I repeatedly felt a strong sense of anger and wanted to lash out at my family for “always wanting something from me”. However, when I took some time to reflect, it became clear to me that the anger’s deeper message was that I am lacking balance.
Once I got that, I then decided to communicate that to my family in a respectful way, and took some concrete steps (more yoga & a vacation away, just by myself) to bring more balance back into my life. Only through slowing down and becoming reflective did I arrive at the emotion’s deeper message and guidance.
If I would have been reactive and made my family “the bad ones”, lashing out at them, I would have not understood it and missed out on it.
Of course, an exception to the “do not act on it” rule is if you are in imminent danger. Then, act on the fear signal right away, and make sure that you are safe. Apart from that, however, most of the time, it is better to slow things down and understand your emotions’ deeper meaning before acting on them.
The third step
once you have understood your emotion’s deeper message, is to express it respectfully & effectively. I give you concrete steps on how to do that here.
Until then, want to grow in this area? Experiment with this:
Next time an uncomfortable emotion appears, resist the urge to push it away and instead say, “Welcome, what do you want to teach me, what is your deeper message?”. Don’t act on it for now and become curious. You will be surprised by the great guidance you will get from all your emotions.
This post is part of the blog series "Creating Happiness", your inspiration to promote positive change in your life.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ms Daniela Beer-Becker, Psychologist
Daniela is a regular contributor to the Blake Psychology blog and author of the "Creating Happiness" series.
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