The most profound and helpful thing I have learned about emotions, especially negative ones, is that we need to feel them. Feeling them doesn’t mean that we are necessarily doing anything. It just means that we feel them. We acknowledge that they are there. We feel them. Then we let them subside. We release them. We don’t hang onto them longer than we need to (in the case of negative emotions). We let the emotions serve their purpose—which is usually simply to be felt—and then we consciously off load them. We don’t carry around our emotions like things. We must feel them. And then we can let them go.
This area is particularly difficult for me because I learned how to feel too much. Maybe that’s just the kind of person I am. I’m just a person who feels things. And I feel things deeply. And yet, there are some emotions, like anger, that I think I learned to never feel. And so when it became time for me to get in touch with normal but negative emotions like anger, I didn’t know how. I only had external examples, many of which were completely not helpful. I’ve had to do this emotional coaching thing all on my own. The thing with expressing emotions (especially the negative ones) is that it’s not about that. It’s not about expressing emotions. The main thing is to feel them. And then if you determine that action is required, you proceed with a form of emotional expression that is constructive (usually in the form of positive communication methods), not destructive.
So what this means for me now, as I am turning my attention to lowering my stress levels, is that it’s important for me to stay aware of what I am feeling, both positive and negative. And then once I have identified what I am feeling (or even that I am feeling anything), I can work on releasing it. Usually in the form of breathing it out, focusing on staying relaxed, and just staying aware of how I am physically feeling as negative emotions subside and leave me. If I am feeling frustrated, usually I can feel tingling in my face. This is new information to me. I never used to be this in tune with myself that I would be able to notice how I physically feel in relation to what I am emotionally feeling. I don’t think I ever really had any other emotions beside anxiety and depression (are these considered emotions?).
I thought I knew what it felt like to feel “happy,” but this was usually just based on feeling good about my life and about the day and pretty much relying on my “feelings” in the moment. Feeling “happy” is way more than that. In fact, it has absolutely nothing to do with that. Happiness comes from within. It can’t be based on anything external (and I know that feelings aren’t external per se, but they are outside of the part of us that is us. Feelings are just feelings. They are normal, and we feel them. As humans with a complex brain, we have accompanying emotions to the things we encounter in the day. We don’t have to live by these emotions, though. We can choose to “be happy” in spite of these emotions, and we can choose to counteract our tendency to feel negative emotions.
I have always been able to find a way to be happy anyway. But what I have been running into lately is a new level of feeling emotions where they are real. And I honestly feel that this is simply what happens when a person, who has learned from an early age that they are not free to feel their feelings or free to be who they are or even to discover who they might be, starts giving themselves permission to feel their feelings (all of them) and to do some personhood exploring. This is what happens. Things get real. And this is good, but it just needs to be kept in check, in my opinion. Because for so long (for me), things felt very much not real. That is what happens when you aren’t living your own life. I’m living my own life now. And part of this process of coming into my own is sorting out what I feel, why I feel it, and to establish response habits that are healthy and constructive.
It’s tough being a grown-up parent (the desire to be which, for me, has been the catalyst for entering more purposefully into this journey of self-development—and I think this is the case for a lot of people—I’m rooting for us). But it’s so necessary if we want to raise healthy children who will grow up to be grown-up grownups. It’s very difficult to change any behavior pattern, especially one that’s been a part of your life since childhood.
Our own childhood is one of our main emotional nerve centers (so to speak), the heart of our heart’s DNA (so to speak). I think, as with emotion regulation in general, it’s important to acknowledge what is there, try to understand it to the extent that we can, and then simply move on with our selves with tools in our pocket for living our life as effectively as we can, given all that we know and understand about everything.
So for me, effective emotion coaching is central to my personal progress, I feel. It’s what I didn’t have that I didn’t know I needed that I now have but am still learning how to do it more efficiently without being so clunky about it. It’s very methodical right now for me. I hope to get to a place where it’s more fluid. I think, as with everything, the more I do it, the better I will get at it. There’s hope.