Feel like your emotions are running the show? Maybe you feel like you are at the mercy of them every single day? Here’s a secret: You’ll find when you make friends with your emotions, rather than fighting with them… it feels so much better.
In this article you will learn what, exactly, an emotion is, why we have them in the first place and how to allow those emotions, rather than letting our emotions call the shots.
What is an Emotion?
Some people think that talking about emotions is “woo-woo,” out there, fluffy, or warm and fuzzy. I tend to look at emotions more physiologically. It kind of takes the mystery out of all of it. Emotions, or feelings, are simply a vibration in our bodies. We think a thought, and then our brain sends hormones and chemicals throughout our bodies. Those chemicals process through and then cycle out.
And though the definition of an emotion is simple, the emotions themselves, end up being the driving force for every single thing that we do, or don’t do. You can read more about that here.
Why Do We Have Emotions?
Emotions are protective. They keep us safe and warn us of danger. They also cue our survival system to know what is good for us and what we want more of. When these chemicals vibrate through our bodies, they alert our brains to things that are important and relevant.
When we sense the emotions of nervousness or fear, it is a cue to our brain that we are headed down a path that might be dangerous. When we feel these emotions, we tend to take things a little more cautiously or slowly.
On the other hand, when we experience happiness or contentment, it is a cue to our brains that we are headed down a path that will likely have a good result. When we feel these emotions, we tend to stay awhile longer or repeat the activity again.
Have you ever heard somebody say, “This just feels right?” That thought creates a feeling of confidence, which is a cue to the brain that we are on the right track.
There Are No Good or Bad Emotions:
I’ve coached several clients that believe that some emotions are good and some emotions are bad. They think that because they have negative emotion that they must be a bad person. And then, they find themselves on some kind of quest to eradicate their lives from any negative emotion. But, nothing could be further from the truth. Emotions aren’t good or bad. They just are.
We have these emotions because we are humans, with human brains, living a human existence.
Your Brain’s Warning System
Once we accept that all emotion is ok, we can stop resisting how we feel and we can start to process the emotion instead. The more we resist emotion, the more power that emotion tends to have over us. It’s sort of like this protective warning system goes into over-drive! It says, “Feel this emotion, now!” And the more we run from that emotion, the more insistent that warning system becomes.
Your brain wants to show you what is important. And if you aren’t willing to acknowledge it, that emotion will pop up later anyway… and with greater force. Make friends with your emotions by listening to what they are trying to say.
So, rather than resist emotion or pushing it away. I recommend that you make space for the emotion and process it all the way through.
How to Process Emotion
Here are a few steps for you to process emotion.
I have to really remind myself to do this. I relax my shoulders and my face.
2) Remind yourself that you are only feeling this emotion because of sentences in your brain.
It is helpful to remind yourself that the only reason you are feeling anything is because of what you are thinking. And that your brain thinks this thought is useful to you in some way.
3) Take a deep breath and open up to the emotion.
As much as you can, open up to the emotion. Allow it to be with you and sit right next to you. Remember the more you resist and push it away, the more your brain will dig its heels in and escalate the emotion.
4) Give the emotion a name.
I kind of like to think of my emotions as friends that I can learn to get comfy with. In my mind, I even say to myself, “Oh. Hello, anxiety. I haven’t seen you for awhile.”
5) Get out of your head and find the emotion in you body.
In order to process the emotion, you’ve got to leave the spinning thoughts in your head and find the emotion in your body. Is it in your stomach, your throat, or chest?
6) Use as many different descriptive words as you can.
Finally, use as many adjectives as you can to describe the emotion. What does the vibration in your body actually feel like? Is it heavy or soft? Dark or light? What color is it? Is it opaque or transparent? Is it moving fast or slow? Is it sharp or fuzzy?
Your Body Was Made to Process Emotion
After following these steps, you will find that you have processed the emotion through. Your body was made to process emotion and it knows how, if you allow it.
Now, you may start spinning in more thoughts again… and you may feel that emotion bubble back up, but… you can just process and allow, process and allow… again and again until the emotion has cycled all the way through.
Resistance Causes Emotion to Escalate
When I first tell people about allowing emotion, they become concerned. They worry that if they open up to the sadness, or frustration, or worry, that it will over take them. But, I want to offer to you that the OPPOSITE is true. What makes an emotion escalate is the resistance of it. In other words, fighting with what you’re feeling.
So, just let the emotion be there with you. Process and allow, while going about the other things you are doing. I like to imagine the emotion as a friend, that I let sit and just hang out with me for awhile.
Make Friends with Your Emotions
Give it a try. You’ll be amazed at how much better you feel when you make friends with the emotion and just sit with it.
And here’s the best part: The more chances you have at to feel sadness, frustration, or worry and just allow them… the better you’ll get to know them. And when you know these emotions and are familiar with them, they will quit running your life.
It’s not like you WON’T feel negative emotion, but you’ll know the emotions aren’t a problem and you’ll know exactly what to do with them.
It’s such a powerful skill to cultivate.