Big emotions 4

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Give yourself permission to feel emotion, get curious about it, pay attention to it, and practice. This work takes practice. Awkward uncomfortable practice
Brené Brown

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.

May you too have the grace to accept your own emotions,

About Jodie McCarthy

Jodie is a writer, speaker, poet and mother. An unashamed words girl who writes to process the myriad of experiences of life. In her writing and on her blog she investigates the journey of life: the beautiful; the painful; the everyday; and the mundane. She has a heart for encouraging women on their life journey, particularly when that journey traverses the harder places of grief and pain. On the days when she is not writing you will find her in her kitchen, usually licking the beaters from a chocolate cake. You can find her books and follow her journey at

4 thoughts on “Big emotions

  • Eva Wangai

    Beautiful article Jodie!
    It has encouraged me to remember to stop and and gently investigate where my emotions are coming from.

    Since sometimes I can feel so scattered and undone – I think it’s such a beautiful act to take a pause and have the courage to figure out where the emotions are coming from

    Thanks for such an authentic article.


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