Most of us don’t like dealing with emotions. Some suppress them until they build up into resentments. Others brush them aside and get on with the motions of living. But this denies the most human part of ourselves. How do we deal with emotions effectively?
Dealing with emotions: ‘Don’t’s
1. DON’T suppress emotions
We often deny our unpleasant emotions by keeping busy so that we have no time to think. We fill every free moment with work, social activities, alcohol, food or exercise. These can help buy time for the strong emotions to subside. But eventually we need to be still and deal with those emotions. Learn to sit quietly for half an hour and just experience those emotions. This allows the healing process to begin.
2. DON’T judge your emotions
Our upbringing teaches us that there are ‘wrong’ emotions. These include envy, jealousy, resentment, anger, and hate. When we feel these emotions therefore, we feel guilty. Instead, accept that emotions are normal. Everybody experiences good and bad feelings. They simply show up in our lives, just as the sun simply shows up. It’s how the world works.
3. DON’T take unnecessary action
When emotions are strong, we cannot think clearly. Hence we make rash decisions. It’s okay to do this, as long as you don’t act on it yet. For example, go ahead and decide not to talk to your neighbour. Just don’t actually march next door and announce this decision to her. It’s much easier to change your mind and ‘un-decide’ when you calm down later, than it is to ‘un-say’ words already said.
4. DON’T vent to anyone who will listen
Some of us are prone to venting, and deal with our emotions by mouthing off about the other person. While venting is helpful, be careful about who you vent to. Confide only in those who love you, will guard your secrets, give you wise counsel. The last thing you need is someone who will fan the flames and make things worse.
5. DON’T blame the other person
This is really hard, especially when we’re convinced that the other person is in the wrong. When we blame someone else, our emotions become hostage to that person’s actions. Our healing then depends on the other person taking action to make amends. When we accept that our emotion is our problem and no one else’s, we regain control and can start to work on those emotions.
Dealing with emotions: ‘Do’s
1. DO talk to a close friend
When we are emotionally upset, we often don’t see clearly. We may blow words and actions out of proportion, refuse to see the good in a person or situation, and convince ourselves that our plight is worse than it actually is. We all have blind spots, and close friends are like mirrors that help us see ourselves and our situation more objectively.
2. DO pour your emotions into a journal
While nothing substitutes a close friend, a journal has its advantages. It will absorb our emotions without getting tired,is there for us any time, and can be referred to in future. Journalling is the fastest way I know to transfer negative emotions out of my system into a safe receptacle. It is also essential for self reflection and improvement.
3. DO give yourself time to heal
Humans have a great capacity to heal ourselves, and stillness and silence are great healers. Just as the physical body needs lots of rest to fight an infection, our emotional self also needs rest to deal with emotions. Nature heals, it just needs time.
4. DO observe each emotion
Try to observe each emotion washing over you as a wave washes over a beach. The wave is not part of the beach, but is separate from it. Strong negative emotions too, are not who we are. Think of them as temporary visitors who come and go. Observing them neutrally will improve your emotional intelligence.
5. DO celebrate after dealing with emotions
Over time you will come to recognize when you have successfully overcome your negative emotions. In my case, I would run everyday to expel negative energy, and I knew I was alright when I didn’t feel the strong urge to go running everyday anymore.
You may experience this point of healing differently. You might suddenly feel goodwill again, or wake up one morning not feeling sad anymore. Celebrate this when it happens. Your brain loves to feel good, and the more you treat yourself after dealing with emotions, the more it will want to do this again.