All of us have emotions sometimes that are overwhelming. We can feel rage, despair, sadness, or fear that make us think that there must be something wrong with us. Do other people deal with this?
We also judge ourselves for feeling rage or hate toward someone. We think it for a moment and then push it down, and think ‘that’s a horrible thought, I can’t feel that.’
But you can. And you should. Marisa Peer, award winning celebrity therapist and creator of RTT (Rapid Transformational Therapy), shares that Awareness, Allowing, and Articulating are key in dealing with emotions in a healthy way. There’s a huge irony here because if you do the Three A’s, the feelings actually lessen or disappear. And if you say, ‘This is wrong or bad, I can’t feel this way or I shouldn’t feel this way,’ you actually cause the feeling to grow. Instead of letting it come up and out, it stays in you and builds every time another “bad” thought is added to it.
The first A is for Awareness. Become aware of how you are feeling. This may sound super simple-most of these tools are. It’s simple, but hard at first. I used to be so out of touch with my feelings that before they could even come to the surface, I would feel myself swallowing them. This seemed so helpful at the time! I didn’t cry, or get mad, or express fear. At least not in public and not very often. But I still HAD the feelings, so they were in me and came out sideways- as I like to call it. Sideways means you don’t deal with your emotions and so they come out in a different way, somewhere else in your life. For me it was letting all the emotions out at home as anger toward my husband and kids, and not feeling peaceful or calm. I was anxious. Because there was no healthy release of emotions- they were always right under the surface. This is SO common! If you do this please know that you are NOT alone.
By stuffing (I use this phrase for pushing down emotions so they can’t come up to the surface, and refusing to face them) my ‘bad’ emotions, I also had a hard time feeling the good emotions in life. I stayed shut down even when I wanted to feel good. When we close ourselves off to anger, jealousy, or guilt because those emotions feel terrible, our body only sees that we are stuffing emotions. The body does not judge good or bad. So it just learns to stuff. So we also stuff good emotions like joy, excitement, and hope. Not fun!
So for me, becoming aware of my emotions meant I became aware that I was stuffing them- literally it felt like I swallowed them. I also had to quit labeling emotions as ‘bad’. Anger is not bad! It’s simply an indicator. Like a light on the dashboard of your car. If the gas light comes on we don’t say, ‘Oh no! Running out of gas is bad. I’m going to cover up that light! Maybe it’ll go away.’ Of course it doesn’t, and neither do our emotions.
Anger is just an indicator. It’s really the main indicator. We reach for anger for protection. This is human. So when we stuff anger and judge it as bad, we are stuffing the feelings underneath the anger as well.
Anger indicates lots of things- we feel hurt, we feel we were treated badly, something happened that is not right, or not fair, people we love got hurt, we are scared, we feel out of control. It indicates embarrassment, rejection, jealousy, loss, and insecurity.
Great! Now I know that I have seven thousand emotions just under the surface! And now you want me to be aware of them! Thanks a lot!
Well, first of all You’re Welcome! ;) Next I want to give you some homework. Over the next few days write down on a piece of paper or keep a mental note or a note on your phone- when you notice anger in yourself. See if you can stop for a minute and observe how you deal with it. Do you stuff? Do you blame? Do you quickly start doing something else? Do you avoid? Do you start eating? Do you open Facebook? Or play a video game? Try not to judge whatever you do. You’re human. No one teaches us how to be healthy about this stuff.
If you are like me, at first you might not notice until later. I had a hard time being aware in that moment. I had to look back later that day and say, Oh crap! I totally stuffed that. And I saw that I missed the moment to notice what I was actually feeling. I just swallowed it instantly. Or you may notice after you have eaten the chocolate, or yelled at someone. That’s OK. Awareness after the fact is still progress.
Celebrate ANY time you notice! Awareness is a skill. You get better as you go. For you this may be a reminder, or maybe the first time you’ve heard about it. So give yourself grace to learn this skill, and get better over time. Small victories are really amazing. Many people never learn, so they hurt others and have anxiety their whole lives. That won’t be you. Even reading this makes you more aware as you move forward.
In my next two posts, I’ll share how to Allow and Articulate our feelings. To get them up and out and not stuck inside us.
For now, really think about your own process of how you handle, judge, push down, or avoid strong emotions. Thanksgiving is coming up, so it’s a great time to see what ticks us off as we see that family member that we disagree with or are hurt by. It’s also a wonderful time to spend some time being grateful that we were created to have anger. It’s not bad. It’s a protective feeling. And we are also created to have all the other emotions.
To be healthy and have the relationships we want to have with people, awareness is key.
See if you can get to a point for a couple of minutes where you just observe your incredible emotional operating system. You are more incredible than the fastest car ever made! My brother-in-law owns a Tesla. He’s let me drive it a couple of times. That thing is amazing! It drives itself and accelerates so fast it throws your head back against the seat. I was too chicken to go that fast, but I went fast enough to pass everyone else like they were standing still! And you are way more amazing than that!
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving! Much Love, Cyrina