You may like to consider yourself as a rational being, however, in fact, your life is inspired by emotions. Emotions upset you, drive you, intimidate you, and inspire you. They motivate decisions, move you to action, or paralyze you in anxiety, anxiety, and fear. They are the cornerstone of your best memories and the bond that creates deep connections with others. In this guide, we’ll explore four principles for skillfully working with your emotions and three suggestions to handle intense feelings such as anxiety, anger, and sadness when they threaten to overwhelm you.
Emotions are volatile. You can feel anxious one moment, angry the next, and then have waves of despair flood through you seemingly out of nowhere. Since they can take you on such wild rides, it’s natural to be somewhat wary of strong emotions – and do everything you can to avoid them or keep them at bay.
You’ve seen what can happen when so-called”negative” emotions like anger, anxiety, and sadness overwhelm you or others. You have memories of unskillful expressions of those feelings you wish you could forget. Images of emotional trauma are stored deep in your subconscious, warning you to be wary once you feel these emotions yourself or witness them in other folks.
In the face of vulnerable feelings, a more rational approach may feel safer. It’s easier to focus on your thoughts and not venture into the scary world of feelings. Yet, reason has its limitations. You may think you’re more rational than you are. Even though you can rationally weigh alternatives or consider unique thoughts, the closing”Yes this” and”Not that” arises from what”feels right.” Even when you’re focused on thinking instead of feeling, in the long run, your decisions and actions are based on your own”gut feelings.”
Because emotions are so powerfully connected to decisions and actions, as well as being connected to threatening memories and your strongest inspirations and social connections, it’s important to understand how to manage them skillfully. Let us explore four principles for relating to emotions in a mindful, intentional, and empowered way.
Four Principles to Deal with Emotions Skillfully
While your first inclination when you feel overwhelmed by uncomfortable feelings, such as fear, anger, and sadness, may be to distract yourself, downplay the feeling, or run away, this just causes emotions to go underground, into your subconscious mind, where they are stored as tension in your body, eat away at your reassurance, and eventually surface as illness. Repressed emotions are the cornerstone of compulsions and bad habits, in addition to the source of overwhelm and flareups in associations. You need to address them.
Emotions arise to give you specific information on what is going on inside you, around you, and with others-and this information will stick with you till it’s acknowledged and heeded. Thus, it’s important to change your perspective from fear of emotions to viewing them as useful guides. Emotions arise with information you need about your life and the ability to do it on this information. Thus, the number one principle of handling emotions is to stop ignoring them and listen to what they have to show you.
What are the sensations going on inside your skin? Especially, notice any areas of present discomfort, since these hold important clues to what you will need to know and do today.
If you are not accustomed to checking in like this, you may not feel much at all or you may feel strong aversion to feeling distress. Stay with it. Remain present with whatever feeling or lack of sense is there. Attention to feelings takes practice. It is a real art you can learn. Remember, if you don’t listen to what your emotions are trying to tell you, they get stuck on repeat and keep cycling through you.
2. Mindfulness of what you feel changes your relationship to it.
Mindfulness is paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, without judgment. When extreme feelings arise, instead of immediately trying to do something about them, take time to witness, listen to, and feel them. This action of mindfulness brings new neural connections in your habitual emotional patterns which allows them to shift. You bring a layer of awareness to your emotions that affects how they affect you.
Mindfulness prevents you from being”gripped by” your emotions in a manner that”takes you over.” You get freedom and space inside and around the feelings you”have,” by recognizing that feelings don’t define”who you are.” They are simply information about what is going on inside you, around you, and with others.
3. Emotions come and go.
Knowing that all feelings are transient is reassuring when emotions run strongly or cycle repetitively. Emotions arise with a goal and recede as you discover their message and use their energy appropriately. When you shine the light of awareness in your emotions, you can see what they have to show you, take suitable action, and allow them to release.
4. Every emotion carries a message.
As soon as you’ve tuned into the sensation of an emotion in your body, ask it what message it’s for you. What’s this feeling telling you about how you are relating to a situation, to yourself, and with others?
Given this information, what actions would be helpful for yourself and others? Simply notice what comes to mind.
Because we are not generally taught to recognize the meaning in emotions, we often overlook, ignore, or avoid their messages. When we do so, emotional energy assembles into overblown high drama to receive our attention. It’s like our emotions say,”O.K. you didn’t get the message in my civil indoor voice, so I’m going to yell it in you.” You then feel extreme anger, overwhelming sadness, or anxiety that is through the roof.
When emotion has amped up to there, it can be useful to bring it down a notch to a manageable level.
Stop what you are doing, close your eyes, and concentrate on slow, deep, gentle breathing, in and out through your nose. Close your eyes and engaging in this sort of breathing activates your body’s natural relaxation response, which helps dissipate the pressure, energy, and intensity of strong emotions.
2. Feel the feeling of the emotion in your body.
Notice where the emotion can be found in your body. Feel the quality of sensation there. Noticing feelings as sensations helps you see them objectively, so you gain space from what you are feeling.
3. Adopt the mindful perspective of a curious observer and query the emotion as if it is a friend who wants to tell you something important.
With this attitude, ask your emotion questions, as if it is a friend who is attempting to provide you valuable information and you are a scientist seeking discovery.
When you follow these tips, you shift your perspective and take the”over-the-top” intense edge off of what you are feeling. Extreme anger may downshift into a firm”no,” intense despair can shatter into”letting go,” and higher anxiety can settle into a motivational spur to action.
Once a feeling has downshifted in intensity, it’s easier to listen to it, feel it, and respond appropriately. You can take action to deal with the current situation.
The bottom line is that, as opposed to fearing the psychological intensity of fear, anger, and sadness, see if you can move toward those feelings with a mindful, curious mindset. As you do that, notice how they change and guide you to what you need to do right now.