When you find yourself emotionally uncomfortable, are you likely to:
- get busy so you can’t feel it?
- wallow in it?
- spew its ugliness on everything and everyone around you?
- feel it fully and let go?
- go deeper within and watch it dissipate?
Our emotions are messengers. We notice them physically in our bodies as tightness, the shakes, a knowing in the gut or as a general dis-ease in our mind. Once we sense that an emotion is vying for our attention, we can go three basic directions with it:
- OUTWARD: Avoid the emotion or find something to blame
- STAY: Stew in it and/or spew it everywhere, often unintentionally
- INWARD: Turn within and process it
I suspect you have a default response, the direction you usually take in the face of emotion. Maybe you avoid emotions at all cost so you look outside yourself for something else to focus on. Perhaps you sense something’s wrong and look outside yourself to find someone or something to blame. Maybe you give away your power to the emotion by staying too long, stewing in it and possibly spewing it everywhere on anyone in your path. Often you then find yourself with cleanup work to do!
If either of these directions is your default, consider trying option number three:
Turn inward: Stop. Notice. Understand. Choose.
The next time you feel an emotion present, stop. Notice it. Say hello! Then turn within and ask questions like:
What are you trying to tell me?
What am I avoiding now?
What is really bothering me?
What am I afraid will happen next?
Take a few deep breaths. If you need support, ask a trusted friend or colleague to help. With this new information, honor yourself by asking:
What do I need now?
What response, if any, is needed?
What parts of this emotion are unfounded?
What if I move forward anyway?
Make your choice. Take the next step. Pause again and notice what has happened with your emotion. If necessary, repeat the questions above.
How can you let your emotions be a guide?