Challenging Emotions – How to Deal with Them
This article is for you if you need support creating a better relationship with challenging emotions like fear, anxiety, anger, shame, or sadness.
If you’re like most people, you don’t want to feel these emotions. You struggle with how to get rid of them, fix them or, at the very least, hide what you’re feeling from others.
The crux is: emotions provide crucial information that helps us make wise choices: yes, even challenging emotions.
Clients coach with me because they’re:
Unhappy in their careers
Lonely in their marriages
Dealing with chronic pain
One of the first things we focus on is learning to feel. Sounds crazy, right?
Why Learn to Feel?
Because your emotions are there for good reason!
Emotions are crucial information from your soul, guidance about what feels good and what doesn’t, and what needs to be healed.
Emotions are energy-in-motion in the body. They are physical sensations that, if you can be present with, will move through your system and provide you with insight and clarity.
Emotions are some part of you saying, “Hey, pay attention to me. I’m hurting. I’m scared. I’m upset.” If you ignore them, the energy builds up like water behind a dam.
Think of your emotions like a two-year-old child. Telling that child that they’re wrong for feeling what they feel, for pretending they aren’t feeling what they feel, or for shoving those feelings in a closet – will do NOTHING for that child – except make them scream louder.
If you try to “solve” or “fix” your emotions by asking, “Why am I feeling this way?” You’re making it a mental game, when it’s an emotional/physical one.
When you tell yourself, “I shouldn’t be angry, sad, scared, or (fill in the blank). Something’s wrong with me.” You create a feeling about the feeling, jumbling you up even more.
Plus, if you ignore your feelings long enough, they’ll move into a physical signal or symptom.
Overwhelmed by Your Emotions?
What about when emotions overtake us, grab us by the throat, or knock us over?
Many clients, and including me, can get overwhelmed by their emotions. They feel so big, as if, it’s all of you. I call it getting “over-identified” with your emotions.
What you fail to recognize is that there is more to you than the current, loud emotion. It may be hard for you to locate the larger sense of you because all your focus is on the challenging emotion. I suggest you both sharpen and expand your focus. Here’s how:
Use Your Body
Your body is a resource. I know it may not feel like it when you’re feeling so much, but it is. This is where I want you to sharpen your focus and develop the tolerance for your emotions.
1. Get more specific with exactly what you do feel. Notice the sensations of that emotion in your body and describe them out loud. For example:
Anger—“I feel a rushing, rising energy through my torso, my hands are fisted, and I want to scream.”
Fear—“I notice my heart rate is fast. I’m breathing shallowly in the top of my chest. I want to hide.”
2. Now, I want you to expand your focus. This is crucial. Notice what feels okay. What feels good in your body is a resource for you. Notice what feels warm, flowing, or simply okay. It could be the bottom of your feet, your calves, your hands, or simply your pinky finger.
Use Your Mind
You can carve the emotion down to size. What you’re feeling is NOT all of you. I suggest you say out loud:
“Something in me is feeling (fill in the emotion or sensation).” Say this three times out loud.
“I notice something in me is feeling (fill in the blank). Say this three times out loud.
“I’m saying hello to it.” Put a gentle hand on where you feel the most sensation to make some contact with it.
Notice freshly what is different inside. It’s okay if it gets louder, if there is no change, or if less than.
This will help you locate what I call the “bigger you,” as well as the part of you that is feeling strong. When you put a gentle hand on that area that is feeling a lot, you’re giving comfort to that part of you, like you would a small child who is feeling a lot.
Most people react to their emotions rather than relate to them. As a result, you are making decisions for your life, relationships, and careers, with faulty information.
When you start to develop a tolerance, feel, and even honor your emotions. You start to make wiser choices for yourself. Your energy comes up, your work becomes more fulfilling, your relationships become more satisfying.
P.S. Want some help learning to feel? I’m happy to coach with you. Sign up for a three-month coaching package!
CrisMarie Campbell and Susan Clarke
Coaches, Business Consultants, Speakers and Authors of The Beauty of Conflict
CrisMarie and Susan work leaders and teams, couples in business, and professional women.
They help turnaround dysfunctional teams into high performing, cohesive teams who trust each other, deal with differences directly, and have clarity and alignment on their business strategy so they create great results.
Check out their website: www.thriveinc.com. Connect with CrisMarie and Susan on LinkedIn. Watch their TEDx Talk: Conflict – Use It, Don’t Defuse It! Find your copy of The Beauty of Conflict: Harnessing Your Team's Competitive Advantage here.