December 19 - Learning to Be with Your Emotions

It sometimes sounds so simple when professionals say, “Just feel your emotions…journal about them…and then reevaluate them.” But what happens when you are actually confronted with what seems like an overwhelming emotion? How do you stay with it…how do you stand it? How do you resist the quick fix, the seduction of immediate pleasure? What do you do?

As the Boy Scouts have taught us so well, we need to “Be Prepared”! If we practice beforehand, we will be much better prepared when we are faced with the real life situation….much like when the Broadway stars prepare by having a dress rehearsal before the opening night.

A tennis professional once told me to practice my serve one hundred times a day…but in my mind only. He said to practice my serve repeatedly on the tennis courts would actually stress and injure my muscles, but I could teach myself a perfect serve by visualizing myself doing it correctly and absolutely nothing would hurt the next day…even at my “advanced” age!

Fortunately, that kind of practice also works with emotions as well… and no one is hurt or stressed the next day as a result! Why don’t we try this right now? Visualize yourself feeling and expressing in a healthy way an emotion that has been difficult for you in the past to confront. Hard to imagine? Certainly it is, as we have spent most of our lifetime trying not to feel them. And this is the very reason it is important that you begin. Here is one way you might want to try.

Remember an instance when you were 0-13 years of age and you felt a great big emotion of some sort. Perhaps you were angry, deeply disappointed, or maybe you felt an enormous amount of hurt or humiliation. In any case, what did you do with this emotion? How did you relieve the intensity of it?

Chances are, whatever you did, you are probably still doing it…perhaps in a slightly different manner but similarly to be sure. If you ran away from home, you probably still remove yourself in some way, even if it is just to imitate a couch potato and watch a lot of television. If you ate a chocolate chip cookie when you were young and feeling bad, you may still find yourself reaching for the sugar to help you relieve the pain. Unfortunately, these actions only mask the pain…they in no way release it.

Now imagine what you would have truly liked to do with it. Would you have perhaps liked to share it with someone? Did you need a soft shoulder to cry on…or someone to let you know that you would survive the feelings that you were too immature at the time to understand? Or maybe, you just needed someone to listen while you explored your feelings...someone to hold your hand so you wouldn’t feel so alone and scared.

Whatever you would have liked then, imagine creating that for yourself now as an adult. Find friends to gently hold your hand…or to listen to you intently. See their faces; feel their caring. Have a list of phone numbers ready…companions who support your mission of connecting with your feelings and designing a new life experience. Observe yourself dialing the phone. Keep a pencil and paper for journaling handy in every room of your house. Each morning when you wake up and each evening as you slip off to sleep, imagine yourself experiencing your emotion in the new, healthy, connected way. Before you know it, you will know just what to do the next time a wave of emotions taps at your heart. Let that wave gently move you to the beautiful shoreline of your life.

What emotions do you find the most difficult to express? What do you typically do to mask their discomfort? Are you willing to practice something new with your imagination? Are you willing to see yourself sharing your emotions with others? Can you visualize discovering what there is to learn from your feelings? Will you welcome your own emotions back into your life?

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