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 culture of ours, 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 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.
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.
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 final 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.
My Wish for You
May you be at ease with whatever wants to move through you today. You are not alone. You are just human. It’s a beautiful life-giving thing to allow it.
A sensitive soul who is also strong. (We can be both.)
P.S., if you are particularly intrigued about this topic and want to dig further, I enjoy this book that is like having a manual for emotions:
The Language of Emotions: What Your Feelings Are Trying to Tell You