Give yourself permission to feel emotion, get curious about it, pay attention to it, and practice. This work takes practice. Awkward uncomfortable practice
I vividly remember going to see “War of the Worlds” in the cinema. I had never encountered the story, and so it was a totally new experience for me. As the credits rolled, I turned to my friends with utter disbelief saying, “I just couldn’t see how it would end well!” The older couple behind us smiled wryly, and I could see they had grown up with the story. I felt like a little child again, full of big emotion I couldn’t contain.
I am a person who feels deeply. I enter into movies and books with abandon. I feel deeply with the characters and cry whenever there is an opportunity for tears. Afterwards, I am always a little embarrassed about my outpouring.
I used to be afraid of big emotion, the big ugly tears, the hot rush of fierce anger, and the complete paralysis of frustration. I felt scared by the depth of the emotion I was feeling, how big it was.
I felt that it was okay to have emotions, but that they needed to be kept smaller, quieter and contained. Big emotions were not appropriate, and especially not if they intruded on the peace of others.
The trouble is that if you spend your whole life denying big emotions, pushing them down and quashing them, they end up coming out in ways that are destructive and badly timed.
This is what happened to me. And then I got ashamed of my outburst, and shame is another big emotion, and the cycle starts again.
So I have had to choose another way and using principles that come from Brené Brown, I now approach big emotions differently.
Firstly, I acknowledge the emotion, no matter how big or small it is. I enter into an inner dialogue and try to name the emotion accurately. Often on the surface, I think I am angry, but when I delve into what’s going on, I may find I am frustrated, or not feeling heard.
Secondly, I let myself feel the emotion without quashing it or numbing it. Sometimes that does mean I have to wait for an appropriate time, but I need to make sure I don’t leave it too long.
Lastly, I investigate. I ask the question, “Why did I feel that emotion?” This leads to the revelation of things that need to change, conversations that need to happen or maybe that I just need to take a nap!
I don’t always get it right and, my family can tell you, I often get it very wrong. But I am working on accepting my big emotions as a part of me that is not to be hidden but embraced.