You and I are very alike.
In fact, we share something in common with every single human on the planet. We all experience emotions.
And how do you live with, and manage your emotions?
But how do we deal with everyday emotions that are more challenging – fear, anger, grief? These are some of the key emotions that can arise within us in a split second or hang around for days, weeks or even years.
- We might wake up each morning and feel overwhelmed with sadness.
- Or feel overpowered by anger as it surges up.
- Notice how our hearts pound faster as we experience a sudden moment of fear.
How can you work with it so that it doesn’t overwhelm you? What can you do to manage your emotions and be more resilient? Is it really true to say that we can manage our emotions?
Our ancestors survived because of the body’s well-designed reaction to danger. The emotions of fear and anger created swift responses to dangers. This resulted in quick-thinking ways to escape predators or stand and defend an enemy.
The deep expression of love created offspring and encouraged humans to nurture and care, thus continuing the human race.
Our body’s in-built ability to help us out in a dangerous situation is still hard-wired within us, and we can still be glad of our body’s Fight-Flight response to danger.
As we ponder over our anger we then might see the growth of resentment, envy, hate, shame. A drip-feed of fear might grow into anxiety, sadness, self-criticism, negativity, depression.
We tend to think that we ought to ‘snap out of it’ or get back to being happy or pretend we’re not feeling angry or jealous.
But in the children’s movie from 2015, ‘Inside Out’ (recommended for adults too!), we learn otherwise. Riley, the little girl whose head we get inside, realises that her feelings are expressing important information.
Feelings need to be listened to and given space to be acknowledged. Our emotions are necessary – so for example, sadness has a crucial role to play. ‘Inside Out’ illustrates well the neuroscience involved in emotions and feelings.
Meditation and Feelings
There is a growing interest in meditation – sitting to meditate can help you to address feelings and experiences that might be challenging or uncomfortable. It’s a way to manage your emotions rather than letting them run away with you.
‘Feelings arise. They often rush into the empty space created when we slow down and sit still. Do not suppress them or deny them, but embrace them with mindfulness. Blocking them is like blocking a stream with sticks and mud. Blocked emotions eventually gather enough pressure to break through the dams we construct.’
An effective way to deal with troubling feelings is to meditate. This isn’t always an easy option. But once you begin the practice of meditation, you start getting to know yourself, or ‘befriend’ yourself as it’s sometimes called.
Too often we think that if we start to meditate, life will become calm and wonderful! Debbie Hampton talks about this; you might wish to read here about the myth and magic of meditation.
Surrender and Manage your Emotions!
Pema Chodron, Buddhist nun, speaks here with Oprah Winfrey in this 3 minute link. She explains how we can sit with feelings of discontent and suffering. We can learn to manage our emotions by surrendering into them which Chodron describes as ‘compassionate abiding’.
It’s a link worth watching: (She also takes it to the next step which is knowing that what you are feeling is how others in the world feel too – compassion for humanity.)
Of course, in the workplace there is little time to meditate on the myriad feelings we experience. Managing your emotions at work can be challenging and meditation in your own time is the best way to re-visit certain experiences.
Here are some of Caroline Smith’s mind-tools to manage your emotions at work.
We store both happy and sad memories in our brains. These have a profound influence on our lives. Our feelings are very much interlinked to our memories and experiences. The film ‘Inside Out’ illustrates memories here.
So, it’s out in the open! Emotions and feelings!
It’s great to see that mental health is being discussed more openly these days. Our current and future generations of children have the chance to be more informed about how to manage emotions and feelings.
Learning mindfulness and meditation sits comfortably with that too. And you and I? Perhaps we’re learning more from our children than we could ever have imagined.
Extra useful link:
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Yvette Jane – Mindfulness & Meditation Guide
This updated blog post was first published in July 2015