You are not alone if you find yourself actively rejecting certain emotions in your life. It’s easy to lean into feelings of joy, happiness and love. But what about guilt, sadness, shame, grief and anxiety?
They’re uncomfortable; they don’t feel great. So sometimes we don’t accept or allow them. Instead, we find ourselves dismissing them, numbing them, avoiding them and pushing them down in our refusal to sit in their discomfort.
Pushing down tricky emotions is like trying to hold a beach ball underwater. It’s not easy, and eventually the darn thing pops furiously back to the surface, sometimes in a completely different location. Sometimes it smacks someone in the face on its way up.
There are so many ways we try to suppress, hide from or mask our emotions. Some of us turn to shopping sprees at Kmart (not naming any names here . . . *ahem* myself). Some of us drink, binge-eat or smoke. We might drown ourselves in work, or bury our heads in the sand and block things out. Maybe we scroll mindlessly on our phones, or hide from solitude and silence by always being busy or around other people. Whatever it is that you do, it provides a temporary release.
Long term . . . that beach ball is just waiting to pop up and bop you right in the nose.
What if we changed the way we view emotions? What if we treated them as visitors showing up, temporarily, to deliver us a message?
Consider that your emotions might be trying to nudge you towards meeting a need, or signalling something that requires your attention. Emotions are your nervous system’s language of communication; your body’s way of sending a message to your conscious mind.
Sometimes emotions are a red flag to let you know that something in your life is off-kilter and you need to restore the balance. Other times they are sending you an invitation to simply take a look at something.
What are your emotions trying to tell you?
Is saying: I’m feeling down and things are off-kilter. I’m trying to process something that doesn’t feel right or OK.
Needs: Care, support and space to be felt. Maybe time alone, maybe time to journal, maybe to connect with loved ones and be supported.
Ask myself: Who could I lean on for emotional support? How can I process this feeling? What can I do to look after myself right now?
Is saying: I am feeling disconnected.
Needs: To make connections with important people in my life. To lean on and embrace others.
Ask myself: Who can I reach out to for support? How can I foster connections?
Is saying: I am feeling threatened and uncertain. My body is reacting in an effort to keep me safe.
Needs: To allow this feeling without resistance, to remind myself I am safe, to take deep breaths and calm my nervous system and to step into discomfort without avoidance. To refocus in the present moment rather than “time-travelling”.
Ask myself: What has triggered this feeling? What unhelpful thoughts or actions are fuelling it? What do I need to do to shift my focus? How can I remind myself of my resources and resilience?
Is saying: I have done something I don’t feel good about that doesn’t line up with my values or I am people-pleasing and I need to step back and put my needs first.
Needs: To put things right if I have made a mistake or hurt someone. Or, I need to forge ahead with my boundaries and prioritise my own needs for the sake of my long-term self-worth. Ask myself: What can I do to make things right? How can I fix this problem? How can I learn from this in the future? What old limiting belief is being triggered with this guilt? or; am I taking something too personally, or taking responsibility for something I shouldn’t be?
Anger Is saying: A boundary has been crossed for me! or maybe; a deeper feeling has been triggered, and I’m feeling threatened by it. Or maybe: I’m feeling overloaded and threatened. Needs: To pause and breathe. I need to take a timeout to process and release this feeling. Ask myself: Are there any other emotions alongside or underneath my anger? (Disappointment? Embarrassment? Hurt? Fear?) Has someone said or done something I don’t like/am not comfortable with? Has a boundary been crossed? What can I do to safely express my anger? What can I do to calm myself? How can I effectively communicate this emotion? Am I emotionally overloaded?
Insecurity Is saying: I’m feeling out of my depth, unsupported, worried, judged or maybe afraid. Needs: Some support or reassurance and to remember all the things I have achieved and am good at. I need to remind myself that my worth is innate and not defined by external factors. Ask myself: What do I need in this moment? How can I practise at this to gain confidence? What are the things I’m good at or that I know make me a worthy person?
Resentment Is saying: I am not speaking my truth in a relationship. My needs are not being met. Needs: To set boundaries, communicate my needs and find a place of compromise, respect and equality. Ask myself: What value or need of mine is not being met? How can I address this feeling? What steps do I need to make to repair this? What do I need to communicate?
Grief Is saying: I have lost something or someone that is important to me and that is painful. Needs: To allow this emotion space. To reflect and remember. To nourish and care for myself. Ask myself: How can I create some space for this process in my life? Who can I talk to for support? What kind of support do I need?
Viewing emotions in this way, as messengers, helps to make some sense of them. When you do this, you pave the way to acceptance.
Accepting your emotions doesn’t mean you like them. No one enjoys feeling anxious, for example, but accepting that it’s there — rather than pushing it away — actually begins the work of processing that emotion.
Words from Be Your Best Self - Available here
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