How often do we avoid our emotions? Especially the more negative ones? I’ve started to realise that for me, it’s quite often, as though I’m some talented Master Emotion Smuggler. However, this strategy is somewhat challenging these days as my emotions seem to be popping up and out all over the place when various triggers come about. It’s a bit like one of those wack-a-mole games in an amusement arcade – they keep popping up, I keep batting them down, but then they pop up again. It’s never ending.
Before so many emotional events I was living quite an easy life, unattached, uninvolved and generally distant from any depth of emotion. And it was easy. I even (quite ignorantly) considered myself to be quite in tune with my emotions. Whereas, in reality, I was unaware to the extent that many of my emotions existed, ones which I have since experienced frequently enough to get to know them quite well in the last year and a half.
When I think more about this, I wonder how I could have even known about the depths and pulls of such emotions? Having not experienced them before, I found it difficult to understand emotions when other people explained theirs to me. It just wasn’t something that I could resonate with, and I think that’s where many of us can find ourselves if we’re not exposed to certain emotions, we’re simply unaware that we’re unaware. The difficult thing here though is then when they are eventually expressed (by ourselves or others), some of us don’t have the tools to deal with them. I know I certainly didn’t and I think some of my friend’s felt that too when they saw me have panic attacks, cry or act in a seemingly ‘irrational’ ways.
Whilst I’m taking a time out in beautiful Bali to work on these things I’m aware that I also need to give myself a break because the emotional work is actually very mentally tiring – it takes time and commitment to build the awareness to break the habits that I’ve created over 31 years. So in my ‘breaks’ I’m hanging around with some great female company (would you be surprised if I’m avoiding men all together these days?) and I’m still investigating my therapies. This week it’s been specifically food therapy, as you can see from the pictures. A girlie night out with wine and a course of 9 master chef style desserts to share, is definitely a therapy in my eyes (thank you Chef Goldfarb and the team at Room 4 Dessert). As well as this there have been some new dress shopping trips, helping out with friends start up companies and generally just enjoying the Bali sunshine.
Back to those emotions… one of the tools that I’m trying to work on with them is actually acknowledging an emotion as and when it comes up, rather than just dismiss them (which can be the subconscious norm for me). This is difficult, for lots of reasons: Firstly because I’m still learning the right language to describe emotions (thanks to the book Non-violent communication). Secondly, the emotions that I’m having to face are also very difficult – caused by a mixture of intense post-traumatic-grief-stricken-heart-break which throws conflicting feelings together into a large boiling pot of what-the-???. Thirdly I’ve been used to repressing emotions for so long that such a massive habit change has a lot of initial resistance. It seems quite silly now, that I would try and repress them at all, but frankly I’ve been under the impression for the majority of my adult life that such open expression of emotion isn’t really accepted, so I pushed them back down, hoping that they’d go away. But when I try to do that with the emotions caused by all the traumas then that’s when it can become unhealthy and the wack-a-mole game can turn into a crazed volcano.
I haven’t quite figured this emotional intelligence thing out yet but I’ve started with a trick taught to me by a new, and dear friend. That is to stop and acknowledge an emotion when it comes up, then welcome it in, then accept it. Remarkably what happens then is that I usually feel it for a little while (which is ‘uncomfortable’ – or really horrible sometimes), then it just passes over me. Then each time it starts to be a little less intense. I guess this also is part of mindfulness, which I wrote about in my last post but I find this method of stopping to acknowledge, welcome and accept a bit of an emotional intelligence revolution. A revolution that I’m hoping to inspire others with, so if you only take one thing from this post today, why not take that tool and add it to your own tool box.