2 Healthy Ways to Work with Emotion
Emotions are like waves in the ocean. They come and go, in and out, up and down, back and forth.
Sometimes they crash together causing a huge splash, and sometimes they calm to just ripples.
The wave can rise so high we can see nothing other than the wave, and other times they can calm to the point that we can see all the way to the horizon.
If you check into your own waves, what do you notice? What’s the tide like in your heart?
(I want to note here that I’m speaking about emotions in generally healthy individuals who are not suffering from a more chronic level of mental health challenges.)
What are your expectations?
One of the things that can make working with our emotions (especially the stormy, crashing, challenging ones) difficult, is our expectations around them.
When we face the less comfortable emotions such as anger, petulance, grief or rage, two expectations can unwittingly veil our perception:
- It feels like it has always been and will always be.
- We desire only the “easy” emotions.
When you consider your own experience, do either of those feel true for you?
Waves Don’t Last
One of the key healing factors when facing challenging emotions is holding onto the reality that none of our emotions last forever. Like waves, they rise and fall.
Keeping this simple truth in mind can give your heart some space to simply be with what is happening in the moment, without getting lost in it.
Personally, I have used this to help me in my darkest of moments. Just remembering that it’s temporary is enough to buoy me atop the waves, instead of being swept under by them.
The next time you face a challenging emotion, try simply remembering that what you’re experiencing is temporary. It certainly won’t change or take away the emotion, but notice if it alters your perception of it slightly.
Your Emotional Range
We all have an emotional range. This range extends bi-laterally. In other words, as we expand our ability to feel more joy, we are also able to feel more sadness.
It may be counter-intuitive, but our ability to feel deep sadness means that we can also experience deep joy. Any depth of emotion is indicative of an expansive emotional range.
As with all of life, there are polarities which offer contrast, enabling us to see things more clearly. Can you imagine if everything in the world was 18% grey (the photographic standard for neutral, flat grey color)? Everything would blend in together and it would be incredibly difficult to navigate through life.
Our emotional range offers us the contrast necessary to navigate through life. Would you even know what happiness was were it not for the contrast of having felt sadness?
Part of our struggle with the “less fun” emotions is that we don’t like them, don’t understand them, and resist them.
What if, instead, your “less fun” emotions were only present with you to point a finger towards something that would support your growth as an amazing human?
What if your “challenging” emotions were teachers?
You don’t have to like your teachers, right? (I remember Ms. Rogers, who taught 8th grade Math. No one liked her, but she was a great teacher.)
You know what makes difficult emotions difficult? Our resistance to them.
There’s an interesting phenomenon that happens when we learn to practice non-resistance with our emotions.
They settle. The waves settle and pass by more quickly.
What I’ve experienced in my life is that when I resist, the waves persist. When I yield, the waves tend to die down.
A point of note… my circumstances don’t always shift, my emotions around my circumstances do. That equips me to better face the challenges I find within my circumstances so I can work towards what I want.
The topic of non-resistance is a multi-faceted one. So, for now, here’s what I’d like to encourage you to try:
1.) Notice when a challenging emotion is present with you.
2.) Notice your resistance to it. How your body might be tight or numb, etc. Your mind might be firing off thoughts about how this is not what you want.
3.) Allow compassion into your heart. Remember that it’s okay to feel what you’re feeling, and it’s okay to not want to feel it.
4.) Be curious. What if you were up to the challenge of feeling this? Can this feeling be okay, just for now? Maybe this emotion is important for you? What if there was a message for you, a reminder, something to learn?
5.) Instead of trying to get past or rid of the emotion, see what it might be like to get more intimate with it. What if you welcomed it, just for now? What if this emotion didn’t want to be healed, it wanted to be held?
Give these two practices a try over time, and notice how your relationship with emotions shifts.
I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below.
Remember to be gentle with yourself as you practice. You can’t get it wrong. Just notice.
More Love, not less. All-ways. 💜