When you watch the rain-forest fires, children of immigrants separated from their parents, glaciers in Greenland disappearing or politicians acting selfishly, do you also feel sometimes so overwhelmed by emotions, that it is hard for you to shake them off and focus on what was right in front of you?
You may have experienced your emotions, in particular so-called negative ones, such as fear, anxiety, sadness, anger and shame, as random, draining and utterly uncontrollable. Maybe you’ve felt stuck, discouraged, or frustrated with yourself, because, unlike you, all the people around you seem to have it together. Wouldn’t your life be much better if you could run it by logic and reason? And wouldn’t it be best if you could just turn your emotions off?
Most of us have been told to mainly rely on reason and logic and ideally ignore our emotions, which are deemed as distractions or weaknesses. However, this is also one of the major reasons why so many people are struggling to deal with their emotions. It is ironic that on the one hand our lives are becoming more and more stressful and the state of our world increasingly worrisome, yet nobody taught us on how to handle the flood of emotions that get triggered on a daily basis.
Our feelings are a natural and important part of who we are. We need them for guidance and to bring meaning to our lives. Emotions provide us with important information about our likes and dislikes, our strengths and weaknesses, and the value of our actions and choices. Every day, emotions have a significantly larger impact on the choices we make and how we experience our world than facts and reasoning. Isn’t it true that the moments we remember and cherish the most are those we associate with the strongest feelings?
The knee-jerk reaction to negative emotions is to try to get rid of them quickly, because they feel uncomfortable and disempowering. Yet, when you consider emotions as powerful energy that is generated by your mind and able to affect every cell of your body, wouldn’t it make sense to not just suppress or discard your feelings, but to harness their potential? The truth is, that when we discover and understand the deeper meaning of our emotions, they become powerful catalysts that lead us to our greater, self-empowered, authentic selves. After all, if emotions didn’t have an important function, wouldn’t evolution have eliminated them by now?
Even though it may feel like it, it is really not our emotions that disempower us or keep us trapped, but the ways we approach them: We don’t know what to do, we identify with what we feel and we resist to make the changes that triggered these feelings in the first place. One of the first steps to gain control of your emotions is to be aware of them and then to give them a name. By naming what you feel, you begin to take hold of it.
So if you feel anxious but aren’t exactly sure what the underlying reason or triggering thought might be, you could begin by saying, “I feel anxious.” That’s a good start. Anxious is a word that can encompass many feelings, most of them negative. So to better manage the anxiety, you can get more specific: “I feel restless, worried, small, doubtful, overwhelmed, stressed . . .”
Research has shown that naming an emotion diminishes its intensity and reminds you that you are more than just the feeling. When you remember that you are bigger than what you feel and that the emotion is just temporary, you can more easily listen to what the emotional data is trying to tell you. So you can become even more inquisitive by asking yourself questions such as, “What am I feeling worried and restless about?” “Compared to whom do I feel small?” “What am I doubtful about?” “What appears scary or overwhelming to me?” Sometimes it’s quite illuminating to notice what comes up when you say to yourself, “I feel XYZ because . . .” and then just wait for the answer.
At this point the emotional intensity is significantly lower, so that you can ask yourself further some clarifying and empowering questions such as: Is the emotion telling me the truth? What choices do I have to respond? How do I want to feel instead? As you consider these questions, you have shifted from being the powerless victim of your emotions to being the one, who is in charge of your mind.
Next time you are feeling overwhelmed by your emotions, use these simple steps to remind yourself that ultimately, your mind is creating your emotions, which is why you can use your mind to un-create them.
Join me this Thursday, September 5th at 9AM PT / 12PM ET on Empowerment Radio (here and on Facebook Live) and learn more ways on how to control your emotions by transforming them into catalysts of healing, growth and self-empowerment.