Emotions... old tapes, new skills
Sunday, November 11, 2018
There are some old tapes that run in my head about emotions and expressing them. Things like... that there is a “right” way to feel in any given situation... that telling others I am feeling “bad”, or “blue” is a sign of weakness, and must be avoided... that being “emotional” means being out of control.., that it is “inauthentic” to try and change my emotions... and here’s a kicker; my emotions ARE who I am... I am not saying these are true. In fact they are all false messages that I have picked up and for some reason or another had impressed upon me, such that unless I consciously challenge them, I often fall back into believing them. Ugh! First off, there is no “right” way to feel. What I feel is what I feel. If I am sad, then I am sad; if I am angry, then I am angry. It may not seem “right” or logical to someone else, but they are MY emotions, and I experience them as I experience them. It’s what I DO with them that matters. Most emotions seem to function to focus us on something that is important in our life, or in our personal growth. Grief is not a logical progression from one stage to another, but it serves a purpose, however you experience it. Secondly, it is not “weak” to let others know when I am feeling less than perfectly happy. The human condition is one of dips, valleys, and peaks in our emotional life. If I don’t acknowledge the sadness I may never move beyond it, and find joy. That would be a true tragedy. And I am cheating my friends and family out of a chance to show their love and support when I hide the truth of my sad or blue emotional state from them. (And for some of us, lying about our emotions is the beginning of a slippery slope to depression.) Thirdly, being “emotional” does not automatically equate to being out of control! Indeed, it is one way of ultimately retaining control (if that’s important to you, like it is to me this is BIG). By expressing emotions and verbalizing them effectively I process them, and either give them more power, or limit their power, depending on my desire and skill. And it is a skill! Not everyone can express themselves about their emotions coherently. I have gotten pretty good in written words, but in person..,? Actually talking to someone...? I still have issues. But it is a skill that I am working on. And then there’s the issue of being “inauthentic” if I try to change my emotional state. I can be truly authentic and still exert control over my emotions. They are NOT a free flowing river that washes heedlessly, and Unconstrained over and through me. I am not a bucket of water, without the bucket! I WAS like that a fairly long time ago now, and it put me in some very bad places. And I don’t want to go back to that painful state. I had to learn (and still work at) to change my emotional state, especially when it becomes stuck in one gear. I can retain my authentic self, and do this effectively. They are not counter to each other. I just acknowledge the painful emotion that is causing me pain or suffering, challenge it, and usually by challenging it I find it’s basically irrational or unfounded in its intensity. And I can change my emotional state to better reflect my true reality, rather than a reality filtered through an irrational emotional state. And finally, the tape running through my brain that I AM my emotions. I am more than simply my emotions. Sure they comprise one aspect of who I am, but they are not the sum total. Who I am is also my interactions, my experiences, my decisions, and who I am is also informed by those things in the people around me. I have heard the phrase “nature or nurture “ many times, but I doubt they are exclusive. I believe I am made up of both. What is experienced internally AND what is experienced externally. My relationships with all of y’all helps make up who I AM... some more than others, but the interactions and reciprocal support have definitely helped shape who I have metamorphosed into over the last 7+ years. Who I was before I joined SparkPeople was a very different person than who I have become, and that is someone who is not defined or controlled solely by their emotional states. It’s been a long progression, and I have to work at it, but the effort (just as the physical effort of losing the weight) has been worth it!