What to do when you're experiencing difficult emotionsDec 08, 2021
The winter holidays can be an emotional time of year. Then again, when isn’t it, am I right? They can get the best of us by throwing a monkey wrench into the productive and joyful days we could be having, and they can make us feel highly frustrated or high enough to feel vulnerable (looking for the other shoe to drop). But did you know that your emotions can actually make you more productive and joyful? Yes. In fact, one could argue that that’s what they’re there for. They are your navigation system, and it’s a highly sensitive one attuned to your personal truth, values, and life purpose.
We are emotional beings that think on occasion (albeit a lot) rather than the other way around.
Even though your mind seems to never stop, you’re more of an emotional being than you might think. Your mind is non-stop because of your underlying emotions, no matter how rational you think you are! They are what causes the continuous mental chatter.
For instance, if you’re a people pleaser, you think think think of how you can make everyone happy in response to the fear of upsetting someone and not being the hero to everyone. If you’re known for your strength and boundaries and are less concerned about pleasing others, your thoughts work to support that image, even though it may not necessarily serve your best interest, and you worry about it. This, perhaps, to protect you from the feeling of shame.
Emotions can control, or they can inform.
How they control - Untrained and by default, your thoughts will try to override your emotions with its bravado, walls, and justifications, making you reactive (whether overbearing or deafeningly and passive-aggressively silent), judgmental, and self-sabotaging. This override of your emotions builds, and the stress accumulates in your tissues creating all sorts of problems, and you are no longer clear about your truth. When you have files and files of information stacked on top of each other, things get overwhelming. If your emotions are not felt and moved through, they are suppressed and misdirected– and that’s not fun for anyone.
To an extent, this can serve us in the moment. But, we forget to go back to the important messages our emotions are telling us, if we’d only listen.
How they inform - When you touch a hot plate, that message travels to your brain through electrical impulses causing you to immediately withdraw your finger from the plate. When you’re making decisions and taking action that steer you away from your deep personal values, that message travels to your brain through your emotions causing a physical reaction that makes you pause. When you start listening, you’ll realize that, on one hand, it’s not personal in that your emotions aren’t there to judge you. And yet, on the other hand, it’s incredibly personal in that it provides a highly customized navigation system made specifically for your important journey.
Here’s how to approach them so that they create less karma (consequences) and more of what you want in your life.
Emotions let you know what’s important to you. Rather than (1) creating a narrative about the person or circumstance that you think is causing the emotion, (2) beating yourself up, or (3) mistaking your emotions for who you are or what’s actually happening, do these instead:
- Allow yourself to feel the emotion physically, in your body. What are the sensations? Do you feel it in the pit of your stomach, as a lump in your throat, extreme exhaustion in your entire being, constant itchiness, shoulder tension, or like acidity flowing through your veins? Close your eyes and feel the emotion versus creating a story.
- Ask yourself, what is the spiritual hunger that’s underlying your emotion? Spiritual hungers are the needs of every human being, no matter who you are (i.e.: hunger to matter, to be loved, to be seen, to be heard, etc). When they’re filled, what happens externally doesn’t push those dreaded buttons. Think when someone does something and you go insane, and then on another day, that same person does the same thing and you barely notice. The difference is how full your spiritual hunger tank is.
- Ask yourself, what is the personal value that your emotion is revealing? Your grief, for instance, may tell you how important that person, thing, or situation you lost truly is to you. It’s an honoring of what that object of grief fulfilled for you, i.e., you felt loved, accepted, whole, worthy, etc. That quality exists inside yourself as something you valued and, now that grief has shown you this, you can look to fill that hole again when you’re ready.
- Journal, meditate, or contemplate on your insights. They will tell you what to do next and, whether or not that information is comfortable to you, if you trust it and follow it, it will help you change course.
- If your emotion is joy, allow yourself to enjoy it! Then do the same thing and identify what exactly is fulfilling to you, and proactively look for more of the same. It will ground you so that you aren’t waiting for the other shoe to drop, and you’re better able to replicate it.
This can seem like work when you’re not used to being present with your emotions, and you might argue that you have a life to live. But - in fact - this offers you a real life to live.
P.S. - Click here to get the list of spiritual hungers to work with.