What Do I Do with All These Emotions?

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.

resisting emotions

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.

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Managing the Whirlwind of Feelings in a Whirlwind World

Dear Val: “Sometimes feeling all this stuff in the world and in my own life, and the people around me can feel like too much. All these feelings moving through me…. Sometimes I want to hide under the covers. But I also care. I’m not sure how to find the right balance sometimes.” ~ A highly sensitive introverted woman.

I’ve heard many versions of this same concern. As a sensitive introvert myself, I get it. I have now designed a life that doesn’t usually overwhelm me, even with all the feelings inside and around me, and that is so different from in the past. It still happens that I feel overwhelmed at times, I mean, this life, yowza! Whoa. But I can see that my choices and some daily habits are making it so much easier. #Grateful

If you’re like me and well, like all humans, you’re feeling a big range of things— from gratitude and love, to confusion or loss— all in this one moment. Seems strange but that’s life I think. And yet…

What if it feels like too much?
AND it’s also worth asking:
What if it opens you up to something wonderful?

I’ll share how I think of it.  Continue reading

How Do I Cope with Conflict and Speaking Up at Meetings?

Ack, conflict. Tough for most of us. And at work with all that pressure? Or in an activist group where you care so much but then we can’t get along?

I got a great question about conflict for my advice column for introverts, so I’ll share it here as a way to help us face this one:

Dear Val,

I sat through a meeting this week during which a client and my boss had a very strongly worded, aggressive disagreement. The client wasn’t raising his voice, but his words, tone, and body language were very combative, and my boss was trying to defend our position against his.

I have a hard time with this type of conflict: that type of aggressive tone makes me really jittery and produces an adrenaline-fueled “flight” reaction. I spent a lot of the meeting hoping it wasn’t obvious how much I was shaking.

I also avoid interrupting others in a conversation, so fast-paced arguments make it extra hard for me to know what to do. My instinct is to avoid getting involved and to not draw more attention/ire toward myself.

In situations like these, I often feel that if I open my mouth, I might start crying, which I know is read as extremely unprofessional and is something I particularly would want to avoid when I am already being dismissed as young, inexperienced, and insufficiently skilled at my job.

However, sometimes I know there is information that I have or perspectives I can bring that would help with the disagreement if I could only figure out how to insert myself into the conversation.

What strategies can I as an introvert use when I need to jump into a contentious/agitated situation in a professional setting?

~Jittery in Massachusetts

fear

Dear Jittery,

Oh, my—I could practically feel the jitters with you while I was reading your letter. I’d love to help.

Conflict can kick up our self-preservation instincts such as fight, flight, or freeze. It’s particularly tough in a work situation where we can’t easily run away, and we have our professional reputation at stake. This is a big challenge for anyone.

I’m offering some suggestions here. Be gentle with yourself as you consider trying something new. It will be worth the effort as you notice anxiety going down, over time.

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Empathy Overwhelm? Finding Words and Answers Amidst Darkness

I originally wrote this post in December 2012 after a school shooting. Ouch, it hurts still to say those words. And I came back here today after yet another mass shooting in Florida to see how it might help me and others face this roller-coaster of emotions.

As I have questioned my emotional ups and downs this week, wondering why I can’t think straight sometimes, I’m reminding myself right now that this is normal and healthy. I’m so grateful a dear friend reminded me it’s not depression, it’s just a brain rewiring in process, and the message is “Please stand by. Upgrade in process.” Ha, that rings a bell. Allowing. Allowing.

I offer this earlier post to you and myself once again, because it still feels right, on this day in June 2016. Here it is from 2012:


The hard-to-talk-about dark side needs a voice today.

I want to honor what is present, and hopefully offer something helpful.

We struggle to talk about the dark side. And I believe we must visit it sometimes—in small doses—if we want to live fully and heal what needs healing.

Today, I’m thinking of the heart-breaking school shooting tragedy, the unfathomable destruction of another hurricane, ongoing wars that we hardly discuss, and the countless losses people are carrying during the holidays.

I see people searching for answers and connection online. Or running from loss because it’s too big.

A friend who lost her son this year told me that it’s hard to know when to mention her son’s name to others, but he’s always on her mind and the weight is heavy as the family gathers for the holidays. Wondering whether to hang his Christmas stocking… is one of many unanswerable questions. My heart sinks as I imagine each question unfolding.

I don’t pretend to have the answers. But I will share what words I am finding helpful. Continue reading

I Opened My Heart and Found Strength, Not Weakness

I learned an important lesson about the heart when I went to my father’s funeral many years ago. The day he died, a friend came over and took me for a walk in the February chill and listened to my worries.

I told her I was afraid I couldn’t handle all the emotions, and that I was especially afraid to be at the funeral and feel raw emotions in front of everyone when I felt so vulnerable. It was one of those major shy moments when I wanted to hide.

[image: rose quartz heart]She gave me a gift that has helped me with that fear ever since. She gave me a rose quartz heart to keep in my pocket. She said it was a symbol that I could be strong like a rock, and have an open heart at the same time. I started to imagine that maybe strength could coexist with an open heart.

So I tried it at the funeral.  Continue reading