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February 27, 2020

5 Ways To Better Address Your Emotions

Shift Team

Becoming Emotionally Aware

Emotions tell us something important, and they exist for a reason. However, we live in a culture that isn’t all that great at validating or trusting emotions.

Often, we’re encouraged to diminish or minimize our emotions in order to push through and keep going. In reality, there are no good or bad emotions, there are just more comfortable and less comfortable emotions.     

What Emotions Tell Us

One emotion is no better than any other. Although some feel good and some feel uncomfortable, they’re all equally important because they tell us something meaningful. An uncomfortable emotional reaction could be telling us, for example, that a boundary’s been crossed, that things feel unsafe, or that a need is not being met. Alternatively, an emotion that feels positive might be telling us that we feel safe, or that we’re valued, appreciated, or at ease.

Some common responses to emotions are unhelpful but completely human. We can see these as opportunities to do things better. Some examples include passive aggression, misinterpretation, emotional overreaction, and wishing our partners could read our minds. These reactions can remind us to try new ways of communicating, which we’ll explore further below.

At times, emotions are too big to be handled on our own, and we may benefit from guidance and support. If emotions are overwhelming, have negative consequences, or result in unhealthy coping strategies, it may be an indication that our response to our emotions may not be serving us. Some examples may include when emotions become debilitating, or when they have a negative impact on others (e.g., a partner or child), and/or when there are negative impacts in other areas of life (e.g., socially, financially, at work). 

How to Address Emotions

If you want to become more emotionally aware and curious about your emotions, here are some suggestions for what you can do when you notice an emotion coming up:

  1. Identify and label: The neuroscience literature suggests that if you can simply name an emotion, it becomes more manageable.
  2. Accept: This is the alternative to trying to suppress or judge an emotion as bad or wrong.
  3. Validate: Recognizing your emotions and acknowledging that it’s okay to have them can help to identify, label and address them in a healthy way. An example of how to validate your emotions is to talk to yourself the way you would a friend, or ask someone else to. 
  4. Ask yourself, what is this telling me? Remember emotions are there to tell us something important.
  5. Make a change: If something needs to change, identify options for change, including communicating emotions to others.

Why I Wanted to Write This                    

                              

I often hear clients share that their relationship to emotions can be difficult. Struggles include difficulty identifying and labelling emotions, trusting oneself and communicating emotions. This is not unusual in response to the way our culture responds to emotions, and the way that many people have been parented. The dominant culture around us is incredibly avoidant of uncomfortable emotions. As a consequence, our common responses to friends, partners and children, are often to try to “fix” emotions by giving advice, dismissing or minimizing. We may respond to ourselves in the same ways, or we feel bad for having our emotions and try to suppress them. I myself have been on both the giving and receiving end of all of these strategies. 

Challenge yourself to see every emotion as important and to consider what it’s communicating to you. Begin by identifying and validating your own emotions and those of others. Soon you’ll feel more understood, and better connected to yourself and others.

This article was written by Kelsey Block during their time at Shift Collab.

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