You may like to consider yourself as a rational being, however, in reality, your life is motivated by emotions. They inspire conclusions, move you to action, or paralyze you in anxiety, stress, and fear. They are the basis of your finest memories and the bond that produces deep connections with others. In this article, we’ll explore four principles for skillfully working with your emotions and three tips to handle intense feelings such as anxiety, anger, and sadness when they threaten to overwhelm you.
Emotions are volatile. It is possible to feel anxious one minute, angry the next, and then have waves of despair flood through you apparently out of nowhere. Since they could take you on such wild rides, it’s natural to be somewhat wary of strong emotions – and do everything you can to prevent them or keep them at bay.
You’ve seen what can happen when so-called”negative” emotions such as anger, anxiety, and sadness overwhelm you or others. You have memories of unskillful expressions of those feelings you wish you could forget. Images of emotional trauma are stored deep in your subconscious, warning you to be wary when you feel these emotions or witness them in other folks.
In the face of vulnerable feelings, a more logical approach may feel safer. It’s easier to focus on your ideas and not venture into the scary world of feelings. However, reason has its limits. You may think you are more rational than you really are. Even though you can logically weigh choices or consider different thoughts, the final”Yes this” and”Not that” arises from what”feels right.” Even when you’re focused on thinking instead of feeling, in the long run, your decisions and actions are based on your”gut feelings.”
Because emotions are so powerfully connected to decisions and actions, in addition to being connected to threatening memories and your strongest inspirations and interpersonal connections, it’s important to understand how to manage them skillfully. Let us explore four principles for relating to emotions in a mindful, intentional, and empowered way.
Four Principles to Deal with Emotions Skillfully
1. The only way out of an emotion is through it.
While your first inclination when you are feeling overwhelmed by uncomfortable feelings, such as anxiety, anger, and sadness, may be to divert yourself, downplay the feeling, or run away, this only causes emotions to go underground, to your subconscious mind, where they’re stored as tension in your body, eat away at your peace of mind, and finally surface as sickness. Repressed emotions are the basis of compulsions and bad habits, as well as the source of overwhelm and flareups in relationships. You need to address them.
Emotions arise to give you specific details on what is happening inside you, around you, and with others-and this information will stick with you until it’s acknowledged and heeded. Thus, it’s important to change your perspective out of fear of emotions to viewing them as useful guides. Emotions arise with information you need about your life and the energy to do it with this information. Thus, the number one principle of skillfully handling emotions is to stop ignoring them and listen to what they have to show you.
What are the sensations happening inside your skin? Especially, notice any areas of present discomfort, since these hold important clues to what you need to know and do now.
If you’re not accustomed to checking in like this, you might not feel much at all or you may feel strong aversion to feeling discomfort. That’s OK. Stay current with whatever feeling or lack of feeling is there. Attention to feelings requires practice. It is a real art you can learn. Remember, if you do not pay attention to what your emotions are trying to tell you, they get stuck on repeat and keep biking.
2. Mindfulness of everything you feel changes your connection to it.
Mindfulness is paying attention, on purpose, at the present moment, without judgment. When intense feelings arise, instead of immediately trying to do something about them, take care to witness, listen to, and feel them. This action of mindfulness brings new neural connections into your habitual emotional patterns which allows them to shift. You bring a layer of awareness to your emotions which changes how they impact you.
Mindfulness releases you from being”gripped by” your emotions in a manner that”takes you over.” You gain freedom and space inside and about the feelings you”have,” by recognizing that feelings do not define”who you are.” They are only information about what is going on within you, around you, and others.
3. Emotions come and go.
Knowing that emotions are transient is reassuring when emotions run strongly or cycle repetitively. Emotions arise with a purpose and recede as you discover their message and use their energy appropriately. When you shine the light of consciousness on your emotions, you can see what they must show you, take suitable action, and enable them to release.
Once you’ve tuned into the feeling of an emotion in your body, ask it what message it has for you. What is this feeling telling you about how you’re relating to a circumstance, to yourself, and with others?
Given this information, what actions would be useful for yourself and others?
Because we are not generally taught to recognize the meaning in emotions, we often miss, ignore, or avoid their messages. When we do this, emotional energy assembles into overblown high play to receive our attention. It’s as if our emotions say,”O.K. you did not get the message in my civil indoor voice, so I’m going to shout it in you.” You then feel intense anger, overwhelming sadness, or anxiety that is through the roof.
When emotion has amped up to there, it can be helpful to bring it down a notch to a manageable level. A few simple actions can help you do this.
3 Tips to Handle Intense Emotions
1. Pause, close your eyes, and take a few slow, deep, gentle breaths.
Stop what you are doing, close your eyes, and concentrate on slow, deep, gentle breathing, in and out through your nose. Closing your eyes and engaging in this type of breathing activates your body’s natural relaxation response, which will help dissipate the pressure, energy, and intensity of powerful emotions.
2. Feel the sensation of the emotion in your body.
Notice where the emotion can be found inside your body. Feel the quality of sensation there. Noticing feelings as sensations helps you witness them objectively, so you obtain space from what you’re feeling.
3. Adopt the mindful perspective of a curious observer and question the emotion as though it’s a friend who wants to tell you something important.
With this attitude, ask your emotion questions, as though it is a friend who’s attempting to provide you valuable information and you are a scientist seeking discovery.
When you follow these suggestions, you change your perspective and choose the”over-the-top” intense edge off of what you are feeling. Intense anger may downshift into a firm”no,” intense despair can shatter into”letting go,” and high anxiety can settle into a motivating spur to action.
After a feeling has downshifted in intensity, it is easier to listen to it, feel it, and respond appropriately. You can take action to address the current situation. You can set boundaries, release what no longer serves you, and prepare for uncertain situations.
The main point is that, as opposed to fearing the emotional intensity of fear, anger, and sadness, see if you’re able to move toward those feelings with a mindful, inquisitive mindset. As you do this, notice how they shift and direct you to what you need to do right now.