Give emotions space
Some of us were not parented in ways that validated our experiences and emotions, or that helped us navigate the world of our emotions in the way that we needed. In fact, for many of us, we got the distinct feeling that some emotions were not okay.
For me it was anger. I learnt from a young age that anger was not an acceptable emotion for me, for young girls to express. Perhaps that was the same for you. Or perhaps, for you, it seemed that sadness, curiosity, affection, fear or joy were not allowed. You may have been ignored, dismissed, punished or ostracised for expressing certain emotions.
Consequently, you may have learnt that certain feelings were ‘bad’ and others ‘good’, or you may have taught yourself not to feel certain emotions. This denial of certain feelings can lead to numbness, where you are not completely sure how you feel. If this is the case for you, go back to my previous posts: How are you feeling: body scan and/or How are you feeling: emotion wheel to begin to identify exactly what you are feeling.
Perhaps you have not learnt how to be comfortable with and validate your own emotional responses in healthy ways. Many of us were taught that if something feels bad that we should change things as quickly as possible by soothing ourselves instantaneously (distractions, food, alcohol, etc.). We were not all taught how to sit with discomfort. We were not taught that the gold sometimes comes from digging – and the digging can be hard, sweaty and dirty work. We were not taught to give space to the emotions that arise from within, whatever that looks and feels like at the time.
Emotions are neither good nor bad, but they can tell us things about ourselves or our situations that are immensely useful. For example, anger can tell us that something is not right for us, or fear can tell us of danger. It can be useful to track your emotions over time to see if there are any patterns.
Sometimes we are overwhelmed with big emotions and struggle to push these aside in order to ‘function’. But learning how to sit with and give space to our emotions can open up new levels of awareness and insight within us.
How do we do this?
Take time to become aware of how you feel physically using things like ‘mindful body awareness techniques’
Sit or lie down and do some belly breathing to calm the nervous system and allow yourself to feel grounded
See if you can name what you are feeling (perhaps using a feelings wheel)
Allow the feelings to move through you or wash over you, knowing that it will pass
Use self-soothing techniques to reassure yourself that you are okay
And, when the discomfort passes, get up and move – walk, dance, clean, yoga…whatever works for you