People experience numerous emotions throughout their daily lives. It also seems to be much easier to express positive emotions. You smile, laugh and communicate more openly when you’re feeling the good stuff but somehow you get blocked or feel confused on how to properly express that you’re hurt, angry or feeling depressed. When these feelings are kept inside you, they get more and more agitated and sometimes complicated as time goes on. You may deal with them through passive-aggressive behaviour, unexplained mood swings or eventually burst and cause more damage in your environment and relationships.
To avoid further hurting yourself and others, you must make the conscious decision to manage your emotions, especially the negative or painful ones, in healthier ways.
Here are some ways you can start understanding your bottled-up feelings:
Experience and identify what you are feeling. When there’s a lot going on, it may be difficult to pinpoint what the feelings are. Thus, it is essential to really feel your emotions before you can understand which ones they truly are.
Give yourself time. If you’re experiencing sadness, anger, embarrassment or something else, give yourself the time to feel all the emotions. Don’t fake it with yourself or downplay your feelings. No, you are not being too sensitive, nor are you being silly or childish. Accept the fact that you’re going through a difficult time. These are real feelings. The sooner you accept them, the quicker you can overcome them and heal. If you ignore them now and leave them unresolved, they will come out later with a different face – and many times, it’s worse and harder to work through. Unresolved issues tend to snowball themselves into bigger issues with many different layers.
Do not distract yourself by keeping busy. This is one of the things people do during overwhelming situations to shift their focus away from their feelings. It’s easier to distract yourself and busy yourself with other things instead of digging deep into your painful feelings. However, if you distract yourself like this, you will be losing a great opportunity to get to know yourself better.
Label your feelings. Once you have really felt them, it’s time to put names to your emotions. Ask yourself these questions to help you get to the core.
- What exactly are you feeling? Is it one feeling or multiple feelings?
- Are you sad? Hurt? Disappointed? All or none of the above?
- Are you upset about someone or are you questioning your own actions or thoughts?
- Is this a new feeling for you or have you felt this in the past? Was it a similar or different situation?
- What is the first emotion you go to whenever things don’t go the way you want them to?
- Do you take the responsibility for your feelings or does someone else “make” you feel a certain way?
A practical way to organize your thoughts is to write! Take out a journal, laptop or a piece of paper and write out whatever is on your mind. Don’t worry about political correctness. Just keep writing! If you have difficulty labeling what you’re feeling, use this chart as a guideline*.
Next, express your emotions in a healthy and beneficial way. You can do it through
- using ‘I’ statements while speaking to someone,
- taking deep breaths if are feeling angry, anxious etc.,
- crying if you want to, instead of suppressing it
- writing; just venting on paper
Baby steps to take now: Write down everything, big and small, that you have felt in the last 24 hours. (Use the list above if you need help identifying all the emotions.) Next, think about how you dealt with them. Follow the guidelines in the article, then ask yourself these further questions: did you talk about or ignore your feelings? Did you bottle them up? Misinterpret them? Or did you do something else with them?