Have you ever wondered what to do with your difficult, uncomfortable emotions? Are you stuck in a spin trying to figure out why they make your life so miserable?
It was just this morning when I had the thought to share something with you. This suggestion is an easy way to help you work through your emotions successfully.
But before we get to that thought, what does it actually mean to “work through your emotions successfully?”
Did you know that your uncomfortable emotions come to tell you something important that you need to do? They do! Once you discover that message, you can act on it, and those emotions will leave!
So what does it look like to “work through your emotions successfully?”
That’s another good question.
Working through your emotions would look something like this:
You are feeling fine–calm, peaceful, and yet a little excited about your plans for the evening–as you go about your day as usual. Before you meet up with your friends for a movie, you have a few minutes to spare so you stop at the post office to send a birthday package to your grandma. Just as you open the door to enter the post office, a man quickens his step to cut in front of you, racing to the counter before you. No big deal, you think. He’s probably in a hurry. But then there’s a problem with his credit card when he tries to pay, and he begins making a scene with the clerk. He insists it’s the machine that’s not working and is soon red-faced and hot-tempered. You are starting to feel a little annoyed at this gentleman, as you watch the clock carefully. If you wait much longer, you might miss your night out and the movie. Why aren’t there any other employees to help? Your cheeks are getting warm, as are your hands and neck. Why can’t this guy step aside and let you go first? You’re starting to feel really frustrated.
You feel a burning inside–and you know what it is because you’ve felt it before–it’s your emotion of anger. Now that you know your anger is present, you check in with yourself to discover anger’s meaning and message to you. Why has it come? You remember anger’s purpose is to alert you when a boundary has been violated. You scan the past few minutes and discover what boundary you need to restore, and you discern how to restore it.
You take action and restore your broken boundary in only seconds. And before the man in front of you is finally stomping off saying he’s going to call the manager, your anger has left you, and you have returned to your calm, peaceful self. The post office employee now motions you to come forward.
Successfully working through uncomfortable emotions is an amazing process that everyone is capable of doing. But some of you have expressed with me the difficulty of discovering the individualized message your emotions are trying to tell you.
Which brings me full circle to this morning when I had the thought to share with you a suggestion to help you receive your emotions and their messages more clearly.
PROBLEM: It is tricky—no, impossible!—to discover the message in our emotions!
The solution to this problem is simple, yet it will take some dedication and diligence. But, it will be worth it, right? Once you can discern more clearly the messages from your emotions, you can more quickly move from a state of “fine” (pre-uncomfortable emotion) to a state of discomfort (in uncomfortable emotion) to a state of peace (post-uncomfortable emotion) as you fluidly move through your difficult emotions.
And the amount of time you spend in your uncomfortable emotions can lessen dramatically.
So what can you do to help you discern your emotions’ messages more clearly?
Write it down.
Put words onto paper—or font onto screen.
One of India’s earliest bloggers, Dina Mehta, said, “Writing and journaling takes us deeper into ourselves. We write, review, can see things from different perspectives. This brings greater understanding. Journaling helps us filter through our mental noise and stuck programs. It allows us to safely get things off our chests. Once we empty out the mundane, we find the gems that have meaning… Any which way it is good for health to get your thoughts and feelings onto paper so you can clearly see them. And if you wish, you let them go. This creates space for more of who you are to emerge. Then only can you hear more of the voice inside of you.”
In many of my writing classes from both my Bachelor Degree in English and my Bachelor Degree in Secondary Education, we often discussed the benefits of free-writing and journaling. These skills resulted in such powerful learning that they were employed in classes that weren’t just for writing. (I recently found my Geology journal from 2001!)
So let’s pretend for a moment that you’ve enrolled in my Emotions 101 course.
Here’s the Emotions 101 Course Description:
This class explores the range of emotions and categorizes them into manageable groups. Lessons cover how to better recognize uncomfortable emotions, what they mean, and what to do about them. Students will investigate their own emotional journeys, discovering how to more clearly discern the emotions’ messages for them.
And here’s your assignment:
At the end of each day, sit in a quiet place and think over the events and experiences you were a part of. What did you feel? Did you get angry? Were you sad? Did you worry about something? Write it all out.
Don’t worry about grammar, punctuation, or spelling. I won’t be checking it.
The most important thing is to get it all out.
Are there any emotions that are still causing discomfort? Maybe you went from angry this morning to feeling just a little frustrated now. Or maybe you felt deeply sad earlier in the day, but now it feels distant, and only subtly there. Don’t ignore those!
Take the time to keep journaling so you can work through them by completing the next steps of the assignment.
Pick one of those emotions that is still causing discomfort. Let’s focus on that one to answer the following questions. Be sure to FIRST WRITE EACH QUESTION DOWN, then write the answer. Don’t filter the answer. Just write the first thoughts that come to you. And any more that trail after that!
1. What emotion am I feeling?
2. What parent emotion is that?
(If you’re not sure about this one, read here about parent emotions and emotional offspring.)
3. What is that emotion’s purpose?
If your parent emotion is Fear, read “How to Reduce Your Anxiety.”
If your parent emotion is Anger, read “Shifting from Anger Management to Anger Assistance.”
If your parent emotion is Sadness, read “Deep Sadness and How I Found Peace.”
4. What questions do I need to ask myself to find out my emotion’s message to me?
(Refer to number three’s links to find the questions you need to ask.)
5. Insert number four’s answers here. Then answer those questions!
Here is an example from a different situation than your successful post office scenario:
- 1. What emotion am I feeling? Frustration
- 2. What parent emotion does that fall under? Anger
- 3. What is that emotion’s purpose? To help me be aware when my boundaries are violated.
- 4. What questions do I need to ask myself to find out my emotion’s message to me? “What boundaries have been violated? What do I need to do, or what must be done, to restore my boundary?”
- 5. Insert the above questions here. Answer them! So what boundary has been violated? Well, I felt disrespected today when my boss wouldn’t give me the time off that I wanted. I work so hard for him, and he doesn’t appreciate everything I do for him and the business. Hmmmm. Let’s see. So what boundary was violated? I guess the boundary of respect. I felt like he doesn’t respect me or my time or desires because he didn’t give me that time off.
- And what do I need to do to restore my boundary? Well, I guess whether I get the time off or not, I can still have a safe boundary of respect. He really has no power over that boundary of mine. So I will just imagine creating a bubble around me and making this a safe space again.
This is definitely just an example of how it could go for you. The answers at the very end will be the very specific answers your emotions are bringing to you. The exciting thing is that YOU get to find out the individual answers for yourself! You have that power and that ability! You were created with it.
It just takes some dedication, focus, and practice.
Hence, your Emotions 101 assignment:J
As you can see in the example of the boss not giving time off, working through your emotions does not solve the original problem. Even though I worked through my anger, my boss still might not change his mind about giving me the time off. Most of the time, working through your emotions won’t be the quick fix to the issue. But it does leave you in peace, –in a better place than you were before!–allowing you to move forward to work to solve the problem.
And if I was mad about not getting the time off because I wanted to go to a concert that night, I might also have to work through sadness too (for missing the concert). But that’s something I would address when the emotion arises.
Or . . . I would address it that evening when I found a quiet spot to ponder on my day and do my Emotions 101 Assignment.
SOLUTION: Journal it!
Try it out! Journal it and see what answers you get. Send me a message and let me know your success and failure stories as you navigate through learning how to work through your emotions to be left in peace.
I know you can do it! You have this capability. And as you continue practicing, it will get easier and you will gain more clarity and power to work through them more quickly. It’s a win-win! So go journal it!