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No one likes to experience worry, embarrassment, shame, anxiety, or the type of intense sadness that feels like a heaviness that will not go away. It’s uncomfortable, intrusive, takes away your sense of control, and often feels like an uninvited guest. If only we could make it go away. Bye girl, and don’t slam my door on the way out!
Yeah, if only.
Who doesn’t want to feel good? We live in a world where sunshine and everlasting rainbows dripped in positivity are constantly promoted. There is nothing wrong with a little bit of positivity, but when it means chasing away those negative feelings at any cost, that’s when it can become problematic. In my work, I’ve come across some pretty creative ways of avoiding feelings:
- Never noticing and talking about it
- Laughter at awkward times
- Shopping sprees
- Late-night eating while binge-watching Netflix
- Walking away at the height of an argument
- And [enter your habit here]
These may be great momentary fixes, but the truth is, they only serve to invalidate your experiences. Without fail, the uncomfortable emotions will resurface again and run wild, often with greater intensity than before.
Have you ever wondered why your emotions are showing up in the first place? And where you learned to dismiss them? Is it a process you observed while growing up? Or maybe said to you with words like “boys don’t cry,” or hearing phrases like: “you’ll be fine” when it sure doesn’t feel that way at the moment, “toughen up,” or “calm down.”
Invalidation is sneaky, and the consequence is a human who learns not to acknowledge their emotions without judgment or trust their emotional experience. Worse yet, you realize it’s not worth it to open up to others about how you feel because it comes at the uncomfortable risk of again being dismissed or feeling unheard.
If I were to sum it up, there is nothing wrong with you. You are not defective because you worry sometimes, are scared of becoming depressed again or aren’t happy all the time. Our life is richer because of our emotional experiences. Emotions allow us to tune in to what we need. It gives us grounds to ask for clarification and express our needs. It fosters attuned leaders and skills like compassion and creativity. Learning to welcome your emotions gives us a real sense of flexibility, freedom, and control.
So how do you embrace your emotions and get to that kind of magic?
Feelings are just information. One of my favorite books is Visiting Feelings by Lauren Rubenstein. The book invites you to look at your emotions like a guest, but instead of shutting the door in its face, asking it why it’s here. We all experience a wide range of emotions, and to better respond to them, we have to take the time to understand them.
Start with taking some space when you notice a difficult emotion. It may mean excusing yourself from an argument with a scheduled time to return, stepping out of the office for a bathroom break, or closing your eyes for a few moments to disconnect. At that moment, find your breath. Use it to anchor you. Try something like four square breathing. Slowing your breathing allows your automatic nervous system to regulate and brings more ease to your body and your mind. It would look like this:
1. Bring your attention to your breath.
2. Inhale and slowly count for four seconds.
3. Hold for four seconds.
4. Exhale and slowly count for four seconds.
5. Hold for four seconds.
6. Do this four-five times.
When you feel that shift in your emotion or feel overwhelmed, angry, or frantic, pause and just breathe. Once you settle down, you can explore with curiosity the emotions that kicked this off in the first place.
What is it trying to bring to your attention (like maybe you’ve taken on too many tasks, need more support, worry about an outcome, etc.)?
It’s a great way to learn to notice and read your body signals as you would shift in temperature and the weather. This practice can help you recognize and understand the messages that speak to what you need or don’t need to feel better physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Amanda Fludd, LCSW-R is a Licensed Psychotherapist, Speaker, and Mindset Coach for high-achieving women in business. Her joy is tackling mental health on multiple platforms.
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