- Kelly O'Donnell
Stop avoiding your feelings and you will feel better sooner!
What We are Told About Feelings is Wrong
We are not, as a culture, very good at processing our feelings. Many parents send harmful messages to their kids (innocently of course). Messages to toughen up, deal with their feelings alone and quietly, and whatever you do DO NOT CRY! It is ridiculous, and it is harmful.
Raising children this way teaches them that they are incapable of handling their emotions, that they should try to mask their emotions, and that they are weak if they do show emotion. It is no wonder we have so many problems as a society regarding emotion regulation – depression, anxiety, addiction, violence, and suicide.
When it comes to negative emotions and the corresponding bad feelings, many people try to avoid them altogether. Often times people turn to food, drugs, or alcohol, to numb the pain. Other times people internally criticize themselves for having feelings at all! All of this avoidance and self-criticism usually causes more pain than relief. It is really a total waste of energy!
Manage Your Feelings Successfully:
The best course of action is acceptance. Acknowledging the emotion and the corresponding feeling in your body can go a long way. Try this… next time you feel an intense emotion (let’s say – anger), stop, say to yourself “I am so angry right now.” Notice where you feel it in your body. Instead of trying to eliminate the feeling, breathe into it. Just accept it… “I am angry and this is what it feels like in my body.” Watch what happens next… It fades.
Compare that to when you do not accept the anger. As soon as you feel anger you might say things to yourself like, “This is not fair… how dare you make me feel this way?…I can’t handle this…I can’t show my emotion.” See how these thoughts can cause bigger and badder feelings and emotions?
Now, do not get confused. I am not telling you to ignore your emotions by accepting them! I am telling you to notice them more fully, pay closer attention to them, don’t let them scare you. Emotions are your friends. They are there for a reason. They always have your best interest at heart! As a matter of fact, after you practice this for a while, you will even start to be grateful for your emotions!
To help me remember this idea of acceptance I like to imagine a tree in a wind storm. The tree is strong. It allows the wind to blow through it’s branches. Sometimes it looks like it may break, but it doesn’t, it bends. Sometimes it might even lose a branch, but after the storm, the tree is still standing tall. Be a tree, and let the emotions and the feelings blow through you. Know that you can handle it and that you are safe. After the storm, you feel peaceful and grateful.