Most of us don’t like dealing with strong negative emotions. We often deal with such emotions very badly, if at all. Some of us tend to suppress them until they build up into resentments. I’ve blundered through enough emotionally trying times that I have a rough list of Dos and Don’ts that help me deal with strong emotions.
The difficulty I have with a list is that we often measure ourselves against such a list to see how well we are doing. That’s quite a depressing approach if we tick off few or none of the items on the list. Conversely if we tick off every item, we may have an inflated sense of achievement.
Still, I offer this in the spirit that if even one tip can help someone to deal with their emotions, then the list has been helpful. So I encourage you to just choose one item from the following list to try out for yourself. If that doesn’t work for you, come back and try another one. If it does work, come back and try another one anyway!
DON’T deny or suppress emotions
We often deny or suppress our unpleasant emotions by keeping ourselves so busy that we have no time to think. We fill every free moment with work, social activities, alcohol, food or exercise. While these help buy time for the strong emotions to subside, 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.
DON’T judge your emotions as wrong
Our upbringing sometimes teaches us that there are ‘wrong’ emotions like envy, jealousy, resentment, anger, hate. When we feel these emotions therefore, we feel guilty and bad, further adding to the emotional burden we already carry. Emotions are just emotions. They exist and show up in our lives every now and then, and should be accepted just as we accept the sun exists and shows up every now and then.
DON’T take unnecessary action
When emotions are strong, we cannot think clearly and make rash decisions. This is fine as long as you don’t act on those decisions. For example, go ahead and decide not to talk to your neighbour. Just don’t actually stomp 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.
DON’T vent to anyone who will listen
Some of us are prone to venting, and deal with our emotions by talking at length. While venting is helpful, be careful about who you vent to. Confide only in those who love you enough not to judge you, who will guard your secrets, and most importantly who will give you wise and loving guidance. The last thing you need when emotionally upset is someone who will fan the flames and instigate more negative feelings.
DON’T blame the other person
This can be 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 and our healing depends on the other person taking action to make amends. When we take the other person completely out of the equation and accept that our emotion is our problem and no one else’s, we regain control and can start to work on those emotions.
In the next post I will discuss some DOs of dealing with emotions.