Tough Emotions: How to Express and Not Stuff
With all of the positive quotes being posted everywhere on social media, which I find wonderful, we can wonder what to do when we feel lost, sad, or even angry. Do we stuff it because we just read how fantastic we are suppose to be? Or, do we express it by using an ugly tone with a loved one? Or should we crawl into a ball by ourselves to exasperate the loneliness?
As I was learning how to live with gratitude and be more positive, I was not sure what to do when I genuinely felt bad. I had a flowery journal that I filled with gratitudes and affirmations, I certainly could not taint it with my uglies. My solution was to buy a separate journal for the tough emotions. At the time, that was my way of dealing with the conflicting feelings, for I had listened to countless mentors and spiritual leaders warn about the damage we do to ourselves by stuffing our emotions. I believed them, so this was my version, until I discovered more effective ways as I discuss further along in this blog.
Why is stuffing so damaging? Unexpressed tough emotions can build up and turn into uglier more painful and dangerous ones. For example, sadness can lead to depression, which can then lead to a number of mental illnesses. This is not an exclusive way mental illness can occur, but it is one way. Also, think about someone who commits murder. This person does not typically wake up from their happy life and commit a heinous crime. Years of pent up pain and anger led up to that moment. These are more extreme examples, but hopefully the point is made.
Tough emotions are good only if we allow them to live momentarily. Their short lived life can call us to positive action. They can cause is to make amends with someone, volunteer for a worthy cause, or other countless admirable ways.
Ways to Express the Toughies
As I continued on my path of discovery, I moved beyond the separate journal and learned how to acknowledge when the tough ones came. I would say “hello” to them, as if they were a friend. I would talk to them. “Hey there, I see your a bit miffed. I understand. That’s a tough situation.” Yes, this sounds crazy, but it does work. As I briefly mentioned last week, the mere act of acknowledgement begins the process of dissolving the negative feelings. It’s like getting it off your chest, as if you were sharing with a trusted friend, except your making that trusted friend, yourself. When I was a stuffer, I had taught myself that I could not trust myself. These acknowledging conversations instills confidence in your entire being, and the negative emotions will begin to pass through more quickly.
Sometimes we do need to vent to a trusted friend. Notice: TRUSTED FRIEND. This is not gossip. With the wrong friend, it could be, for many times our frustration derives from disappointment with another person in our life. You must have the trusted friend that can listen without judgement, not taking a side, but able to help you transition your emotions into a positive action or perspective. This trusted friend will also not judge you. If you do not have a trusted friend, I recommend start being a trustworthy friend to others, and soon one will simply present themself to you. This is exactly how it happened for me. Now, I have many trusted friends and I am a trusted friend to many. I reach for the one I feel drawn to at the time.
Simply stated, a little physical exertion can sweat the icks right out of us. It’s true. It’s magical how it works. I cannot recite for you chemically inside our bodies what exactly happens, I will leave that up to the scientists, but it helps and offers clarity when we’re done.
4. Take 2
Especially if you are feeling intense, difficult emotions in the presence of others, take 2 minutes, seconds, or even hours, you decide, to cool down and gain composure. During this time, you may call up a friend for support, have a chat with yourself, or just meditate. Whatever you choose, take the high road and step away before something is said or done that is regrettable.
5. Experience Nature
This one is my favorite.
There is a reason we call it “God’s Country” whenever we are away from concrete and surrounded by nature. For again, something magically happens inside of us, and we get clear. I believe we are removing ourselves from the distractions of the world so that we can actually see, feel, and hear Divine guidance. Allow me to indulge further with an expanded example.
My friend Cute & Caring, her boyfriend Smart & Sweet, and I were on a long, early, morning hike. A recent rain gave a vibrant freshness to the sights, smells, and sounds of our journey. Despite the beauty, I was feeling lonely and sad due to an internal conflict I was having trouble resolving. I was not quite ready to convey my feelings into words and share with them, so I internally acknowledged how I felt and then welcomed taking a break from those feelings by trying to engage fully with them. I was amazed at how I could really enjoy their company within my current emotional state. I chose to hear Sweet fascinate us with his knowledge of Saguaro fruit and how to obtain it, the surface tension of water droplets on barrel cactus needles and how trees mimic this process, recognize Cute’s silent admiration of her Sweet boyfriend and his vast knowledge – it was absolutely wonderful even though the sadness continued to reside in me too. And then, there she stood, off the beaten path, this Saguaro.
My amiable friends watched as I ventured off toward her. They allowed me my moment without question, for they too make room in their lives to “stop and smell the roses.” She exemplified how I felt. She stood alone, looking a bit beaten up and weathered, but still tall and hanging on. I took solace in her.
Oh my, a little distance from her was another Saguaro. She too mirrored my feelings. She looked broken, as I felt broken, but somehow capable and able.
Their presence was a gift. Somehow, someway, they took my pain. This is what nature does. It is magical. It cannot be explained. It is God’s Country, and God soothes and loves us.
I am thrilled as I imagine all of you practicing the expression of all of your emotions! (especially out in nature with the Saguaros:)
Sunshine and Smiles,