Oftentimes we hold this idealized image of how we should be, feel, and act in the world. We believe that emotional health means completely eliminating “negative” emotions and being in a state of perpetual state of happiness and bliss.
This is simply not true. Expecting yourself to be happy all the time is completely unrealistic and unhealthy. Instead allow yourself to feel whatever you may be feeling at a particular moment.
• Don’t try to label these emotions initially.
• Don’t try to understand or analyze them.
• Don’t assign them a positive or negative value.
• Simply allow them to exist and experience them as they come.
• Be patient and compassionate with yourself.
Learn to identify your emotions
After you have become comfortable with experiencing your emotions, it is helpful to learn to identify them. Most of us have a very limited emotional vocabulary.
We tend to be extremely familiar with the major emotions: happiness, sadness, anger. However, we are less familiar with the broad range of emotional experiences that aren’t fully captured by these terms.
What you may experience as anger might actually be disappointment. Perhaps the guilt you think you’re feeling could best be described as resentment. Take some time to develop a deeper level of self-awareness so you can accurately describe your emotional experience.
One tool that was extremely helpful for me was an emotional vocabulary chart. I would carry this around with me and “check in” with myself several times a day. I began to see patterns in my emotional experiences. I truly began to observe, understand, and accept myself more fully.
Again, the point is not to assign judgment or to determine why you are feeling a particular emotion. When you question why, you may assume that something is wrong with the feeling you are having. You are merely observing and identifying in order to develop greater self-awareness.
Learn to express your emotions
Expressing your emotions to others is an important part of healthy and mature communication.
Consider the following statements.
“You made me angry.”
“I feel angry.”
Did you notice any differences?
There is a subtle but powerful shift in emphasis between the two. The former places blame and assumes that the other person is responsible. This often leads to defensiveness and can shut down further efforts at communication.
The latter effectively communicates the same feeling but eliminates blame and indicates a personal acknowledgment and acceptance of the internal experience. This is an example of something known as perceptual language, which I’ve found is a powerful tool for learning how to communicate in a more mature and healthier way.
It becomes more of a report than an accusation. In my experience, these types of statements are better received by others and also give me a greater sense of control.
In communicating your emotions, it’s not only about the words you say. Your intention is also extremely important. Be careful that you are not expecting the other person to make you feel better. This often leads to anger, frustration, and disappointment. Instead, find ways to soothe and comfort yourself.
Allow other people to have their own emotional experiences
Once you have given yourself permission to feel and identify emotions within yourself, it becomes much easier to separate yourself from the emotional experiences of those around you.
Just like you, other people must be accountable for their own emotional experiences. Allow them to experience, identify, and express their emotions in their own way.
Once you have clearly defined emotional boundaries, you no longer hold yourself responsible for other people’s emotions. This ultimately leads to healthier and deeply satisfying relationships.
Until Next Time!