They can make us do things that are out of character...such as shouting at our partner when we've seen something on FaceBook. Or feeling really angry about the car that cut us up. Or regretting that time when we wanted to try some different but were too afraid. Maybe you're surprised each time the green eyed monster raises its ugly head. And let's not even go near that place where we store the memories that bring on the shudder of shear panic and shame; at the mere thought of them! It’s ok, its not just you, we’ve all been there.
But the trouble isn’t with the emotion. The trouble is what we do as we feel the emotions. We believe that we can’t cope with the big feelings; the scary feelings. We believe that we can’t handle them, that they’re a force that we have no control over.
Some people even believe that other people are in charge of their emotions! They have handed their power over. You’ll notice this because they say, “you’ve made me angry!” or “they made me cry!” The responsibility is given to another; it could even be given to things like the weather. Listen out, for examples.
Many of us have grown up in homes where expressing our feelings wasn’t only discouraged; it was actively squashed. Sharing that we feel like Bubble & Squeak [fill in your own meal horror] resulted in a lecture about the starving children in Africa or how hard your father worked to put the food on the table. We quickly learnt to keep our feelings, our wants and our needs under wraps.
Having a bad day, feeling upset or feeling angry could be faced with “What have you got to be upset about?” or the classic “If you don’t stop crying, I’ll give you something to cry about.” The harsh words, or condemning looks became translated into rules; rules for us; rules about us. A child is shamed for expressing disappointment about having to go to the shop, may learn to disapprove of such a strong feeling; more often they learn that others disapprove of such strong feelings.
So they get buried, denied, disconnected. We don’t learn how to lean into them. We don’t learn how to process them. We don’t learn how to use them. We don’t learn how to get the most from them. But the great news is that we can! It is never too late.
We can learn how to feel emotions and use them to inform our decision.
- Anger points us towards change.
- Fear points us towards safety.
- Sadness points us towards compassion.
- Guilt points us towards adaptation for the future.