Dealing with Difficult Emotions
Dealing with emotions requires some level of intelligence, a lot of patience and even more grace. Imagine: you get into a fight with a colleague. It makes you anxious but you also know you’ll feel relieved when the breakdown resolves. Notice two different emotions here - one is more desirable while the other isn’t? Well, you just learned what ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ emotions are! However, knowing them is just half the battle. We must also understand how to cope with them.
Positive emotions are situational responses that are pleasurable or desirable. Whereas negative emotions are those that make us feel unpleasant, therefore they are undesirable.
Now let’s dissect how to deal with our emotions, especially difficult emotions. Just like any other problem area, there are two major ways to deal with negative emotions - 1) work on coping with them as a solution and 2) cultivate positive emotions as prevention.
Coping Mechanism for Difficult Emotions
As with any emotion, it’s first necessary to identify its source - that unmet need. We must be open to ourselves about how we’re feeling and what makes us feel that way. Having this clarity then allows us to figure out the necessary steps:
Accepting it: It’s okay to admit to ourselves that our colleague’s promotion is making us envious or that we feel ashamed about our body weight.
Digging deeper: Use approaches like journaling, meditation, mirror talk, or roleplay conversations to find out more about what’s really bothering us.
Planning changes: We can use the new learnings to take small corrective actions. For instance, taking deep breaths to cool down when a conversation seems to turn into a confrontation.
Releasing it: It’s a good practice to take a walk around the park, go for a run or engage in some other physical activity to release the overwhelming feeling surrounding us.
The more we cultivate positive emotions & feelings, the better we get at it — leaving less room for negative emotions to overpower us.
Being mindful: Mindfulness is not only about the big things. Engaging in everyday tasks with all our senses helps us enjoy the little details better and be grateful for them.
Gratitude practice: Expressing gratefulness consciously every day for everything we’re bestowed nudges us to look at the positives.
Sharing joy: How about complimenting someone heartily? Or sneaking in a ‘You’re awesome’ note in our loved one’s work materials? It’s never too much to bring joy to people.
Acts of kindness or service: Making an effort to lighten up someone’s world goes a long way in developing positive emotions.
When dealing with emotions, we may occasionally repeat previous unhealthy patterns. During such times, catching ourselves in the act sooner and reiterating our commitment to change can be quite helpful. It should suffice to remind ourselves that both of the above approaches require practice and we’re doing our best.