Emotions don’t have brains, and they certainly don’t come with remote controls. If we are being honest, I think we can all identify difficult and uncomfortable emotions we would skip if it were possible. Unfortunately emotions can be like uninvited houseguests, they just show up regardless of what you have planned. Metaphorically, while we may want to turn off the lights and sit quietly hoping they will just go away- it doesn’t work like that.
Telling our emotions we shouldn’t feel how we feel isn’t likely to make them go away. Pretending that we don’t feel the way we do isn’t particularly effective either. Sometimes the more energy we put into trying to not feel how we’re feeling, the more we invest in that feeling. What if instead, we treat our emotions like houseguests. They can come visit, but they can’t stay, and they can’t expect you to entertain them all day if you have other things to do.
What if I made lunch plans with a friend. I was very much looking forward to seeing them and catching up. At the last minute they call and say they’re slammed at work, and they need to reschedule for next week. I may be disappointed, perhaps even frustrated. My logical mind may remind me of what it’s like to be busy at work, or times that I have had to reschedule. I may logically accept the change in plans, and know that I -should- be okay with it. On some level I am, I am accepting and understanding. I am also still disappointed, and frustrated at the situation and my experience of feeling the uncomfortable emotion of disappointment. My logical mind can’t just eliminate the emotional experience. Instead of trying to force out that emotion, I acknowledge and validate my emotional experience. I can be disappointed and frustrated, and still choose to continue on with my day, acknowledging the feelings and making space for them – without allowing them to dictate my actions or impact the rest of the day.
Submitted by Rachel Sahtout (formerly Narow), Licensed Clinical Social Worker