Tag Archives: emotions
Check out the newest discussion between Two Therapists Talking. This round we talk about if you can control your emotions or not?
Last week was tough for a number of clients. I got to thinking about how great it would be if Madison had an Anger Room (a safe place to express anger in multiple forms). Navigating angry feelings can be confusing and when you have abuse in your past it can be even more difficult to know what to do. A place like the Anger Room provides an outlet for learning about different expressions.
One might think that we all experience anger so what is complex about the process? Many of us suppress it for fear that we will act out in a way similar to the abuse or abuser we experienced. It is a scary thing when one has spent their life being a good, caring, gentle person who wants to stay away from conflict and angry feelings. It almost seems logical to become someone who is on the opposite side of rage. However, because anger is a universal signal that something isn’t right, problems occur if we ignore or push it away. People that experienced abuse didn’t feel that they could express themselves properly (for whatever reason) and were also taught that it was not okay to have the feelings of anger. Hence, in many ways their system is taught that it isn’t safe to have a response of anger, even when it is a healthy reaction.
Any time we pretend that our emotions don’t exist or don’t honor them, they float back up in unpredictable ways. And this very thing is often what a person is trying to avoid by suppressing the emotion in the first place. So what is a person to do if they are scared or unfamiliar with how to feel anger and express it?
One of the first things is to begin to identity when you think you might be having anger. You begin to be aware of when you feel angry and where it is in your body. This allows for grounding and a signal that you are accessing the situation beyond just a momentary reaction. Once you have basic identification of what you consider to be angry feelings, you can look at what the anger is about… the person/situation that is currently happening or a trigger to how you were treated in the past. Once these beginning steps are in place, you can look at how to express the anger in a healthy way*.
People hold anger in different ways and that means that what works for one may not work for another in providing some relief from the intensity of the emotion. Some people need a strong physical outlet, others need to write, many need to express the anger with the person (in a safe way) verbally, and others might need a more creative way to share these feelings.
Anger isn’t a bad thing, it is an emotional response to learn and teach you about your system. What is harmful is when you don’t allow yourself to express emotions in a healthy way. Your angry feelings are telling you to listen to yourself and look at the situation around you. This is a powerful tool for the ability to set boundaries, create a plan, and act in a healthy way.
*Please seek help from a therapist if you need assistance with this process.
Recently there was a discussion I attended that brought up the concepts of reality and truth. I admit that I have used these ideas interchangeably many times. I will finesse the words as I see fit but the fact is that often times whatever is real to me is also my truth AND whatever is the truth often doesn’t feel real. It is all rather messy when pushed to differentiate.
Here let me give an example… I’ll say that I enjoy playing games. This is true. I _do_ like playing board games. However, the reality is that what I like about game play is the interactions of those around me. So, yes I do like playing games, but it is rarely about the game itself. Rather it is the dynamics of the individuals involved that are playing the game that holds my attention. This is true and real and the complexity of it all comes together to provide a larger context. Does it mean that I don’t like playing games for the sake of the game? No, I do enjoy specific games. However, I tend to enjoy specific games because of the way it involves the players in differing ways. Does this mean that I lying when I say I enjoy game play? No, but it does mean that I’m not sharing the full depth of what I mean when I share this information. It is a verbal shorthand of sorts. I’m describing something that is true about me within reality but it is not nuanced. One can see how even with something as simple as this, it can become confusing.
Beyond the philosophical debate of these ideas, I will ask you to consider how we tend to do this very thing with emotions. For example, we might state that we are “angry” with another person. We expect them to just understand and then act accordingly to fix whatever is wrong. Neither of these things usually happens, and then we react even more strongly in the irrational hope that more anger will explain the details. Again, this approach rarely provides us with the outcome we desire.
Instead if we are to consider the fuller spectrum of what we are trying to share, it might just help us in what we are seeking out from another. There is something that being angry means to us. It could mean that we are seeking to connect and don’t know how, we want attention and so we create something that isn’t real but feels truly upsetting (i.e. being lonely). Or perhaps a true boundary of ours has been crossed and we really want to make it known. Maybe someone or something that has no real connection has had an impact and we need a way to express our frustration. Sometimes we really and truly are unsure as to what is making us so upset. These are just a few possibilities for what could be going on when someone uses the shorthand of emotional expression.
It would be wonderful if we could all just easily explain what is real and true to each one of us. Life would be so much easier if we understood ourselves so quickly and deeply that when we rattle off “the obvious” that it made sense to everyone else. However, we have unconscious and conscious motives… many of which we don’t always want to share with others. Hence, the process of what is really true and truly real becomes almost a game of cat and mouse.
So what happens next? Ah, this question I do have an answer to… the best answer …is to ask questions. It is just as circular as the idea of reality and truth within the realm of feelings. Feelings are not facts but often times appear as such. This is to say, that it is a fact that you are experiencing an emotion, however that emotional response does not necessarily represent reality in full. It can be difficult for anyone of us to sort out what is what. One of the best ways to go about this learning process is to query yourself and others.
When you consider your personal values and what actions you want to take when you are at your best-most-centered (some say rational) self, what choices would you make?
If you were to give advice to a loved one, what would you say to them about the situation?
In the past, when you were unsure of your feelings or of those around you how were able to figure out what was the best option?
When you consider the possible outcomes what responses lead to what most directly reaches your goals?
Notice that most of these questions are about thoughts and actions. This is because emotional responses can shift around people, moods, and situations. It is totally possible to have emotions swing around from one end to the other. And yet our goals and our actions often reflect our deeper sense of personal convictions.
You may be confused about what is real or true within emotions but I encourage you to ask questions of yourself and others in an attempt to locate what is centered and sturdy over time. How do you want to act, how do you want others to remember your actions, and what principles do you want to live by? These kinds of questions will take you to the heart of your emotional responses and get you back on track when you are feeling lost.
What is truth or reality after all? In my opinion, it is a steady continual reflection of who we are from the past, present and future. You are a complex matter of intricate data points: feelings, thoughts, and actions combined together to create your ethical framework. It is really and truly wonderful process!
We often fall into the trap of sensing that the emotions we are having this very moment are so real that they are facts and they will last forever. When we are so overwhelmed by our emotions it clouds how we see our life and those around us. The other side is that we are so sure that our emotions have such super strength that we avoid getting close to them. Either way I’m here to tell you emotions are not as strong as we give them credit for. They are powerful insight into what is going on within but they are not the end-all-be-all.
First up is that you are tired, worried about something, life events move in a direction that appears negative, and before you know it you are angry. You start lashing out at people that you love and the emotions just seem to take over. You can’t seem to find your balance …. you know that what you are doing doesn’t make for good healthy relationships but you can’t help yourself. Or so you think. Trapped in a spiral of negativity you feel bad, you attack others, and all this creates a bad situation. It grows and before you know it you feel like the world is crumbling down. You feel certain that you can’t handle things and that life will just continue on this way which of course adds to the feeling that you can’t handle what is going on.
Second is the approach that perhaps things are not going bad at all, instead they are going great. Your new relationship is going well and your partner just expressed their love to you. You can feel the energy in the room shift and your partner looks at you to get a response as to how you feel. You turn cold. You feel yourself pull away on the inside. You don’t want to be afraid of this wonderful person but you have been hurt in the past. That hurt felt terrible and you never want to feel that again. So you turn off the happy connecting feeling so that down the road you don’t have to feel possible hurt. Again the emotions feel so huge that you can’t handle them.
One embraces the emotions as everything and the other ignores the emotions because they feel they are everything. Same coin, different sides. Feelings are a response to stimuli. They are the result of data coming in and being processed. How they are processed can be sound and valid or it can be based on passed issues that trigger a not as sound response. This is why we look for other things within us (and sometimes outside of us) to help gauge.
Feelings are transitory. Don’t believe me? I am sure you can think back to a super happy wonderful time and then one event turned it all around. I had a birthday party as a child and was thrilled and then it started raining and I felt horrible. I went inside feeling it was ruined and no one would like me. Stuff happens. One emotions can change into another.
You did not wake up thinking you would be happy every single moment but funny how our minds when we are upset think we will be unhappy for every single moment to come. It is a nasty trick we play on ourselves. So when you are dealing with feelings you don’t like or not dealing with them because you are so afraid of them, you are not in balance. Emotions are reactionary. They are creating your reality as opposed to you being proactive with your thoughts and creating it for yourself.
So when a situation occurs where you feel overwhelmed by emotion or want to escape them, try to remember that you are in control of your thoughts. You have the ability to consider HOW you are viewing your emotions. How you view the day as negative or positive helps balance what emotions you respond with. So if you are having a really bad day you will probably respond more negatively. You know this and take it into consideration and check yourself and your responses. If you are unsure if you are making choices that you would make in a more calm state of mind then take a moment, a day, a year, and really look at the situation. Evaluate what is going on and what others might do that you respect and see if you feel you are on track.
And if you are afraid to feel hurt or sadness or negativity and you run from it by not experiencing those emotions. They have a hold on you just as strongly. Emotions are not reality and if you allows yourself to feel sad you will not feel sad forever. It is hard and scary to deal with but even your levels of sadness rise and fall so you have proof that it isn’t all the same. And at the end of the day they are just feelings… they pass and move and change and you can handle that. If you try feeling your feelings (such a therapy phrase) and you get scared that is okay. Take it as an opportunity to learn a fuller spectrum of emotions with the knowledge that they shift and you are in control of the thoughts you have around your emotions.
Feelings are not facts. Feelings are not facts. Feelings are NOT facts.
Say it over and over again until you have a handle on how to deal with your emotions.