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Managing Your Emotions

There are two types of people. People who are afraid to feel their emotions and people that are afraid of not feeling their emotions. Which camp are you in? Is it possible to find balance between those two camps?

I was in camp “don’t feel anything” for most of my life. Needless to say that it caused a ton of pain. It caused me to have regular mental breakdowns because I was simply unwilling and unable to deal with my emotions in any sort of useful way.

When I started healing 9 years ago, I made some choices. I set up some goals but I also knew that I didn’t want to live my life the way I saw other people living theirs. Even though part of me wanted to conform and fade into the woodwork, there was still another part of me that really wanted to buck the system, especially the emotional system.

In spiritual circles we have this thing called the Dark Night of the Soul. What is it? It’s where you go deep diving in your emotions and get lost for a couple of years before returning to the surface. It’s a form of willing self-torture and a method of healing that I don’t subscribe to and didn’t want to subject myself to. There just had to be a better way.

I was scared of my feelings partially because I didn’t have a good strategy for managing them. Everything that I heard and read said I had to feel all this crap to heal it and I wanted nothing to do with any of that. Was there a way for me to understand the emotions and heal from them without actually going back to re-live them? Yes there was and that’s exactly what I did.

It was all intuitively guided. I wasn’t actually aware of the strategy that I had been given until after I had been using it for a few years. But the strategy was pretty simple: allow the emotions to be there and keep your head screwed on straight at the same time. Basically feel the feelings for a bit, allow them to flow through and then use your brain to figure out where they came from so that you can deal with your thinking. All emotions come in on a thought, regardless of whether that thought is conscious or not. The emotions are a clue as to what the thought might have been, so that even if it was unconscious you can figure it out.

We have this idea in society that to deal with emotions in a healthy way we have to allow them to run rampant and take over everything. We have to allow them to be freely expressed to such a degree that we throw them around like confetti while paying absolutely no attention to what’s happening or why it’s happening. We seem to think that if we just allow ourselves to feel them then we don’t have to understand them. We want to think we can be as unconscious about our emotions as we are with our thoughts. That’s simply not the case.

We don’t want to take any control over ourselves so we spend our lives trying to control the external world and when that doesn’t work it causes a lot of pain. The argument I hear when I talk about managing the mind is that there is too much danger of the ego getting in the way. We defend the problem of a run away mind by suggesting that the fix is more dangerous than the problem itself. We do the same thing with emotions. Managing the emotions means I’ll need therapy because emotions can’t be managed you have to allow them to be out of control otherwise it’s unhealthy. Again, that’s just defending the problem.

Much like the ego doesn’t have to get in the way of you managing your thoughts, emotions can be contained and felt at the same time. It’s all or nothing and they are not mutually exclusive.

Emotions are energy. They are an expression of the energy within you at that moment. When you express emotions you are releasing that energy and that’s a good thing. But expressing doesn’t mean shooting them out of a canon towards the closest target. It doesn’t mean allowing them to be all over everything. It doesn’t mean drowning in them for days, weeks, or months on end. It doesn’t mean making up stories to validate them. It just means allowing them to be there while expressing them in such a way that the energy is fully released. Once the energy is gone then you deal with the mind that offered the emotion.

The mind triggers the emotion every single time. The mind gets in the habit of triggering certain emotions when specific scenarios play out in your life, whether or not the emotions are actually needed.

Have you ever felt like you were supposed to be upset at something and you weren’t? Have you ever thought about why that happens? Your mind recognizes that this is a scenario that everybody else gets upset about. Your mind then starts to wonder why you don’t feel the same way as everybody else. You start to think there is something wrong with you. Maybe you even feel guilty for not feeling the same as everybody else.

The problem with this perception is that your individual response or reaction to a given scenario is based on your own life experience and pain. It has very little to do with the scenario itself. It’s okay that you don’t feel that. Your mind isn’t triggering the emotion because it doesn’t have an experience that says it needs to. In some cases your mind isn’t triggering the emotion because you actively dealt with the thing within yourself before the scenario ever happened externally. You prepared yourself for what was coming and so the emotion is unnecessary.

This starts to explain what your mind is doing with emotions. When your mind triggers an emotion it’s because the experience is familiar, there is something in the past that caused similar pain, your mind is just in the habit of triggering certain emotions at certain times, or you think you’re supposed to feel that way.

Your job is to figure out what the scenario is. What’s happening within you? What’s the thought? What’s the thought connected to? Where’s the trigger?

When you feel the emotions, keep your head screwed on straight. Your mind will immediately offer you thoughts that validate the emotion. Ignore those. Let them pass. The reason why you ignore those is because it’s a rabbit hole. When you validate the emotion it triggers more emotion. It causes you to get in a loop. Why do you think get stuck in feeling emotions for days on end? It’s because you allow your mind to validate the emotions by making up stories that offer you more of the same emotion. It becomes a repetitive cycle that’s hard to get out of.

The way you keep emotions contained is by staying out of your head while the emotion is present. Don’t allow yourself to go down the rabbit hole. Don’t validate your own feelings with your thoughts.

Yes your emotions are valid. When I talk about validation this way what I’m offering you is the idea that you don’t need to encourage your emotions further. Feel what originally came up and don’t go further than that. Don’t wallow in them. Don’t get lost in them. Don’t allow them to trigger every other painful thing that’s ever happened to you in your life. Don’t offer yourself reasons to get even more upset. Keep that whole thing contained to the experience it belongs to. Don’t let it expand beyond that.

The energy will release and the emotion will stop. It will do so much faster than it has in the past if you’re not encouraging yourself to feel worse. The emotion is meant to stop. It’s not meant to go on forever. It’s meant to be finite. Emotions have a beginning and an end. The reason why we don’t think emotions end is because we’ve been taught to encourage them through our thinking.

Once the emotion has subsided you can figure out what the mind is up to. You go back to the mind to understand what’s happened. You don’t question the emotion. The emotion just is. You question what the mind thought it needed to react to. You question why the mind generated the emotion.

Now remember to let yourself off the hook. If you feel the need to wallow in it for days, who am I to tell you that’s wrong? Knock yourself out. I would just offer you the idea that you need to remember where you are. Take your map with you so you can get back from your emotional journey. Wallow in it consciously so that you don’t get lost and you don’t get stuck there. Does that make sense? You have to take your brain with you all the time.

If you decide to go on a snorkeling adventure into your emotions for a while that’s fine. Just know what you’re doing so that you don’t create problems that aren’t there, the emotions don’t overtake you, they don’t creep into every other aspect of your life, and you don’t wind it all up into a massive story of pain that you need to carry around forever. Be aware of what you’re doing. If you can be aware of it there may end up being a benefit to it for you. The benefit comes through awareness, not through wallowing in things unconsciously for days on end.

Clarity is not an emotional process; it’s a mental one. Your emotions are clues which is why some people call them GPS. It’s because they are showing you where the problem might be. They are a hint that something is up that you need to manage within yourself. They are not a hint that you need to start trying to control your external reality. They are a hint that there is something you need to deal with within yourself.

I gained clarity not by deep diving in my emotions for 9 years. I gained clarity by learning to understand my emotions. I learned to allow myself to feel them without letting them be out of control. I learned not to encourage my emotions with my thoughts. I learned to use my emotions as a GPS system that pointed to problems within myself that I needed to work through. I also learned to recognize when there was nothing to deal with. That sappy memory doesn’t need me to heal anything. It’s just a sappy memory and I can leave that where it is. Understanding those kinds of things matters because it keeps you out of the rabbit holes you’re prone to diving into.

People still think I don’t deal with my emotions. But the truth is that I’m just willing to manage them and that scares some people. They don’t want to manage their emotions because they are afraid they will end up squishing them and creating more problems for themselves than they already have. The trick is just to keep your head screwed on straight. Pay attention to yourself. Recognize what’s happening. Question what’s going on.

There is no danger of your ego taking over or you squishing your emotions if you’re committed to paying conscious attention to yourself at all times. Not in that uncomfortable, self-conscious kind of a way, but in a way that allows you to separate yourself from your thoughts and feelings so that you can see them clearly. That awareness is what keeps you out of the danger zones that make you afraid to learn how to manage yourself within the experience.

You don’t have to be afraid of this process. You just have to be willing to commit to it. It takes work but it’s worth it. How do I know? Because of the amount of change that I’ve created in myself and in my life without ever trying to control the external experience. I did learn to manage myself within the experience. It changed my life. It can change yours too.

Love to all.



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