One of the most essential lessons for my well-being has been what to do with emotions. Whether it’s the ones that seem to have no reason, or from big tragic causes, or in joyful moments, it all comes down to some simple understanding of what emotions are and what to do with them.
The topic of emotions keeps coming up in conversations with friends and clients.
In this crazy dominant culture, the topic of emotions, a simple universal internal system, has become foreign to us, and something we hide in the closet.
And yet, it is discussed frequently… in private. Or at least when people talk to me.
An acquaintance recently asked me on the sidewalk:
“I hear I’m supposed to allow emotions, but how does that really work when I’m afraid it will just swallow me if I look at all this grief?”
Good question! I know that feeling.
I’ll tell you about our conversation and how I’ve learned to understand and manage emotions as a highly sensitive introvert. Along the way, I’ll explain some simple truths about understanding emotions that can bring you so much freedom and joy.
The Key to Emotions
That day on the sidewalk, my acquaintance and I explored her question together and got into things like:
- How to take the big stuff in small doses, but to still allow some relief valves to open.
- How emotions have to move through. The emotional steam has to release.
- How the cost of not releasing is too high. Holding it in leads to depression or anxiety.
She started seeming more relieved as we spoke.
The word emotion has the word motion right in it. I use that as a reminder to let emotions stay in motion. They will move through. They won’t take over.
That’s it. That’s the key to emotions: let them move through.
No, you don’t need to understand why they’re happening. Really… Really. That’s a fear trick of the mind that tries to force you to think and “figure it out” instead of just feel. Forget the Why. Just be. Allow. This too shall pass.
If there is an important message you need to know from your emotions, I find it will come after you allow the feelings.
My Experience with Resisting Then Allowing
I’m a highly sensitive person who feels things easily, even if I don’t always understand what I’m feeling. Mostly it’s a gift to feel easily but sometimes it’s a challenge. I’m also an introvert who doesn’t want people to see all those emotions happening. It’s an interesting combo!
There are times when tears want to come and I don’t want them to, but then when I have a chance, I will turn to my husband saying I think I just need to cry, even while I’m resisting it.
He knows to remind me: it’s OK, let it move through, crying is fine, we can do this. And we do. It’s surprisingly short-lived once I allow the tears. A few seconds actually.
He’s a saint, I know. But this isn’t rocket science. We can all do this. My close friends and I do this for each other too. Just takes some practice, step by step.
If it feels too big, I can imagine putting it all in a box, and I can pull out just one tiny piece at a time. Actually, if it feels too big, I just get someone I trust to be with me, by phone or in person. It somehow feels safer, like you’re still a part of humanity. (Sad movies and sad songs can help too.)
The Amazing Gifts of Allowing Emotions (It’s Worth It!)
One of the best gifts of allowing emotions, in addition to avoiding depression, is that when you feel the unpleasant ones, it’s easier to feel the joyful ones too. Shutting down emotions is not selective — it shuts down the bad and the good.
One more plug for allowing emotions: it’s the key to connecting deeply with others. If you can feel and allow a little vulnerability, a whole world of fulfilling connection is possible. I’m pretty sure that if I didn’t allow those emotions to move through, I wouldn’t have such a deep connection with my husband and close friends.
If You Have a Big Heart, This Could Make It Easier.
Sometimes a lot wants to move through us. We start feeling others’ emotions, because we care and we can empathize. But it’s a lot.
It’s good to have a big heart and you don’t need to shut it down. But you do need some relief.
One way to be able to keep your heart open but not get overwhelmed is to develop some good grounding methods for sensitive souls. Inspiring music is one of the things that helps me.
A Little Musical Support for You
I needed this song the other day in light of so much discouragement in the news. Maybe it will inspire you too.
Enjoy her catchy song. It could stay with you in a good way today. Alicia Keys is clearly living her purpose. You can just feel it.
I like her tender heart and tough mind.
If you want some “bittersweet” music to help you feel your feelings and not feel alone with it, check out this Bittersweet playlist, from Susan Cain, the author of the book, Bittersweet: How Sorrow and Longing Can Make Us Whole.
My Wish for You
May you be at ease with whatever wants to move through you today. You are not alone. You are human. It’s a beautiful life-giving thing to allow it.
A sensitive soul who is also strong. (We can be both.)
P.S., Lots of wisdom in this interview with the author of The Wisdom of Anxiety.