“Emotions suck. Feeling too deeply sucks. If I didn’t care so much, I’d be happier and life would be easier.”
These trending thoughts aren’t unique. Emotions have a bad reputation and in the upmost literal sense- it’s melodramatic.
Think of emotions as a stage and you, the leading character. Your last performance was a total shit show. Audience wasn’t engaged, lines were forgotten and attempted redemption, made matters worse.
Nervously exerting unnecessary effort, caused a tumble off stage and you nearly broke a leg; painful and embarrassing, but fuck that, it was a tough crowd.
Blaming an audience is an easy way out and we do it all the time. You were late for work, two days in a row, and forget a few tasks on your to do list. Your boss expresses concern and issues a warning.
You’re pissed off, but whatever, everyone knows he’s an asshole who sits behind his desk all day, only lifting a finger to stuff powdered donuts in his mouth.
When trivial matters seem catastrophic, balancing emotions feels impossible. Everything bothers you and everyone sucks. A breakup, divorce, or unemployment ( not trivial matters) really succeed in twisting that knife in your back, eliciting a plethora of feelings you’d rather not deal with.
That’s to be expected, right? Shit happens and sometimes it sucks. Emotions arise and controlling them can be a struggle. Maybe if you didn’t feel so much or care about the asshole who upset you- it wouldn’t be like this. Wrong.
We’re quick to judge and label our emotions as being either “good” or “bad.” Is it really that bad or is it bad because you told yourself it’s bad?
Pain is not only a normal aspect of being human, but it’s necessary, informing what we should and shouldn’t do, what we like and what we don’t like. It’s neither good nor bad, it just is. Somethings are out of our control and that’s okay too.
We’re all guilty of self defeating thoughts when facing “bad” emotions, but the emotion isn’t the problem, responses are. You don’t care too much or feel too much, you react too much.
Responding to a negative emotion is often irrational and impulsive. A driver cuts you off merging lanes so you flip her off. In the midst of doing so, you see an elderly woman behind the wheel and suddenly feel awful.
Reactions are preventable. Taking a deep breath, setting aside your road rage fueled anger would have been more effective. You’d probably ask, why am I getting worked up over something so stupid? Its not like I’ve never cut someone off before.
Five minutes is all that’s required to calm down your body and gain a more rational perspective. Acting on emotion reinforces it, like oil to a fire. If you’re feeding the flame, it takes longer to die out.
A significant portion of human suffering is self-inflicted. Ironically, actions are motives to make us feel better but it makes us feel worse. For this reason, awareness is a crucial tool to procure in your tool box, and you do so by being your own detective.
What am I feeling? What’s causing this feeling? Why this feeling problematic to me? Is there alternative ways to view this problem, and if so, what are they? How would I like to respond? Is that necessary and will the outcome be satisfying and effective? If not, what’s a better response?
Asking these questions brings awareness toward the body, allowing you to re-center and gain a more rational perspective of the crime scene.
Self affirmation is also a powerful tool. Feelings are fleeting and that gentle reminder is impactful. “I won’t feel this way forever.” Saying this creates a distance between you and your emotion, lessening it’s influence.
You have the power to transform what you feel by regulating responses. It’s the easier road to travel…so what are you waiting for?
Change your direction.
-Jessica Bruno LMHC