Have you spent your whole life avoiding negative emotions? Do you stuff them down or resist them at all costs? Chances are you were never taught how to identify and process emotions. On today’s podcast I will teach you in 5 steps how to identify and process your emotions so that you can live the life you were meant to!
So today we are talking about identifying and processing emotions. What is an emotion? When we think thoughts, our brains send a chemical reaction to our body which is what we know as emotions. Sometimes our emotions can seem overwhelming and we can’t handle them. We are actually conditioned from very early on in our life to resist emotions that are painful. As mother’s we teach our children not be angry, or sad. We do everything in our power to help our children not experience anything painful. But what we should be teaching them (and what I wish someone had taught me) was HOW to deal with them. Not resist them. Not push them deep down and pretend they are not there. Not do something to avoid them. We need to learn how to identify our emotions, how to feel them, and how to process them. Because, they are just chemicals in our body. They can’t actually hurt us. And resisting them actually makes them worse.
In the LDS church, we are taught that when Adam & Eve partook of the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil – it brought an awareness to them so that they could experience opposition in all things. This was a crucial part of the Plan of Happiness. We are supposed to experience hurt, and and frustration, and sadness. This is NOT weakness. This is being HUMAN. This life is not meant to be happy 100% of the time. I think for people who would say they are truly happy, they still experience negative emotion 50% of the time. That’s normal.
Do you remember that movie Inside Out that came out about 3 years ago? I absolutely LOVED that movie because I think it brought the topic of emotions to the forefront. So if you have NOT seen that move, it’s a movie about a girl whose family moves across the country and she has to deal with a lot of new challenges. But the movie is mostly from the perspective of these characters that live in her head that represent her emotions – Joy, Anger, Sadness, Fear, and Disgust. And what I loved about this movie is that it showed how the emotions controlled this girl by putting thoughts into her head about her situation or about memories she had. It also showed us that these are our 5 main emotions and other emotions that we have are kind of “sub-emotions” of those main 5.
Have you guys ever seen that poster with all the different cartoon faces that represent all different emotions? There is a HUGE range of emotions and sometimes it can take a while to figure out WHAT we are actually feeling. And because I don’t think most of us were ever TAUGHT to identify and deal with our emotions properly, We often mis-identify what we are actually feeling. For example – I hear all the time from people how ANGRY they are about this and that. And what they are probably feeling is more fear, frustration, disgust, or disappointment.
So today, I want to give you 5 steps to identifying and processing your emotions. This is especially helpful if you are dealing with an emotion that is overwhelming or painful.
- So the first thing is to identify the emotion that you are actually feeling. Sit with it. Call it by name. This is FEAR. I am DISAPPOINTED. I am FRUSTRATED.
- The second thing is to ALLOW the emotion. Let it move through you.
Now, remember what I said earlier that EVERY emotion you feel is caused by a thought or belief in your brain. When you believe something, then your brain sends a chemical reaction to your body and that is what your emotion is. So as strong and powerful as that emotion is – it can’t hurt you! So don’t resist it. The more you resist it, the more it will stick with you and intensify – which is the anxiety and panic you start to feel. But if you identify it and just sit with it, allow it, and let it move through you it will come and go a lot quicker. Now sometimes it will go away and then come back, but each time it does if you just allow it, it will move through quicker.
- Is to identify where it is in your body? Is it in your gut? In your chest? In your shoulders or neck? What does it feel like? Is it hollow? Is it thick? Does it move? Is it slimy? Is it sticky? What color is it?
- Once you have sat with the emotion for a while and you aren’t experiencing it constantly then I want you to identify the thought of where that emotion is coming from. If you are having a hard time identifying the thought, ask your brain. It’s really good at problem solving. Ask it – What thought is bringing the emotion of _________ and then don’t answer it. If you answer, I don’t know, this gives your brain permission to shut down. You are essentially turning off your brains wisdom. But if you ask it and put it to work, it will eventually solve the problem for you.
- Once you have identified the thought, then you can work to change that thought if needed. And sometimes you don’t want to and sometimes you don’t need. Its ok to experience any emotion that YOU want. The good news is, is that if you don’t want to, you CAN change it. YOU have that power!
I think it’s important to understand that as humans we are supposed to experience the entire range of emotions. But, if you can learn to manage your thoughts, then those painful ones don’t have to stay as long and you can learn to think about things differently.
But, just as we should only expect to be happy about 50% of the time, the same goes with the people around us. It’s OK for our husbands and children to only be happy 50% of the time too. But their emotions are based on their own thoughts about what is going on in the world. It is NOT your job to manage their emotions.
With our kids, we want them to be happy all the time. But they have the right to a full range of emotions. So wouldn’t it be better to teach them where those emotions come from? And how they have the power to choose their thoughts to help manage those emotions.
And with our husbands…it’s not OUR job to make them happy. Just as its not their job to make us happy. We make ourselves happy with our own thoughts. So if HE is unhappy, that’s on him! It’s not on you. Now that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be kind and considerate of him and his feelings. But you just need to realize that HE gets to manage his own thoughts and emotions. Which is AWESOME news! And it’s important to understand that just because he is unhappy or stressed or frustrated, that doesn’t mean we have to be. That is called MIRRORING emotions. But you get to choose your own thoughts. When you find yourself trying to manage His emotions or mirroring his emotions try on the thought
“He can be unhappy, but that doesn’t mean I have to be” instead.
Now I want to talk a little bit about buffering – Buffering is what we do when we are trying to avoid feeling certain emotions. We watch TV, or scroll through facebook or Instagram. Maybe you shop and spend money. Maybe you turn to food to give you that temporary feeling of happiness. There are TONS of things people do, some more destructive that others. Drinking, Sex, Gambling, or doing anything maybe not as harmful but to excess. Sometimes things can actually be considered good and productive, but done to excess and to avoid other things, its still a buffer…working, crafting, cleaning, etc.
What do you do to buffer? When I was really struggling in my first marriage, I drank Diet Coke. That was one of my buffers. I always say that Diet Coke was how I survived my first marriage. But I was also overweight, because I was eating to fill a void. I was constantly trying to find things that would make me happy because I was so unhappy in my situation. I even tried buying a new house and putting in a pool because if I was going to be miserable in my marriage, at least I’d have a nice house and pool. That’s how I buffered during a challenging time in my life. It wasn’t until I confronted my thoughts about myself and about my situation and dealt with the pain and other emotions that I was experiencing was able to walk away. I had to quit the buffering and deal with my life, as hard it was.
Henry Cloud says “Nothing good is going to happen if you can’t deal with the bad things that are going to happen.”
And he’s right. Until you can learn to deal with the bad things. Learn to deal with the negative emotions, you aren’t going to be able to experience the life in the way that you were meant to. If I hadn’t dealt with what was going on in my life and in my first marriage, I’d never be where I am today. And where I am today is in a happy, healthy, successful marriage. And I am happier than I have ever been in my life. And that’s what I want for you too.