WHY OUR EMOTIONS BECOME OVERWHELMING
The days pass by, and emotional intensity keeps high.
Every time it seems we’re finally settling into a situation, something moves, changes, shaking again the feeble balance we had just found.
This might get overwhelming pretty soon, as the human nervous system loves stability, repetition, certainty.
And yet, one thing that seems to be clear by now, is that what is under our direct control is very little.
Certainly less than what we thought - or would like it to be.
The two very important things to do to find ease in uncomfortable situations, are to accept that everything is constantly moving and changing, and then learning to sit with our emotions instead of ignoring them.
ACCEPTING CHANGE AND UNPREDICTABILITY
We can imagine the world around us as a river:
we can try to control the flow of the water, we can build dams and try to tame the river making it go the way we want it to.
But the truth is that the river has an untameable power, and at any moment it might tear our dam down and go the way it wants to go.
So we can convince ourselves that we can tame the river -and get emotionally overwhelmed everytime it overflows-, or we can accept that the force of the river is not under our control, and decide to go with the flow, aligning our movements and our choices to the ones of the river.
SITTING WITH OUR EMOTIONS
And then there’s the big deal of sitting with our emotions, looking at them in the eyes and feeling them, rather than ignoring them and carrying on.
Many of us have never been told how to deal with emotions, some of us have been taught not to show them.
Anger is bad, crying is weak, fear is weak, sadness is unpleasant.
There’s a whole series of emotions that have been labelled as undesirable.
And yet, this rational decision that they’re not pretty enough to be felt and shown, doesn’t prevent us from feeling them.
So, what happens then?
It happens that we feel them, our whole body gets activated in a series of physiological responses that are not carried through their natural end.
Our body never gets the confirmation that a scary threat is over, that our sadness has been cried out.
So they get stuck in our bodies, in our minds, in our whole systems, stuck in a never ending loop.
They grow on top of one another without ever being released, without ever getting a stop signal, until we are completely overwhelmed by our emotions, with a sense of tension and uneasiness that we can’t seem to shake off.
So how can we deal with overwhelming emotions?
How can we allow our emotions to flow?
Let’s put down a few key points to keep in mind:
No emotion is inherently good or bad
They are all there for a reason, a whole system in place for you to be always balanced.
When you take part of it out of the equation, the balance is gone as well.
Anger is there to make you react against dangerous situations,
crying releases all the sadness that we feel when someone or something is taken away from us.
Every emotion is essential and perfect for a certain situation. There are no right or wrong emotions.
When you can fully accept that crying is not for the weak, but for the healthy and balanced -therefore, ultimately, the strong- you can allow yourself to feel it.
Don’t be scared by how intense they feel
Remind yourself that emotions come and go, if we allow them.
They might feel very intense and powerful -even overwhelming- because maybe they’ve been bottle up for quite some time.
But all they want to do is to be seen and go away.
So relax into the idea that, as intense and overwhelming a moment might feel, it shall pass.
Focusing on your breath is always helpful to give your mind a focus and to come back to your bodily feelings, which is a primary technique to calm down when we feel agitated.
You can find a breathing technique you might find helpful here.
If all this emotional work doesn’t feel very familiar to you, and you don’t really know where to start, a wonderful way to begin is journaling:
- it keeps your mind focused so it doesn’t spin all over the place;
- writing physically allows you to pour your thoughts and feelings out;
- lastly, we humans are verbal creatures, what we feel and understand it is strictly related to our capability of verbalizing it.
When we feel something for which we don’t have a name we can’t make sense of it.
How many times have you found yourself in a discussion that went something like: “Is everything all right?” “Yeah, I’m just a bit down”.
But what does down really mean?
Does it mean sad?
Does it mean lonely? Hurt? Uncomfortable? Scared?
Writing about your feelings pushes you to look for words to describe what you feel, and this very
act is gonna help you make sense of your emotions, allowing them to eventually go.
Journaling is a very powerful tool.
Try it for yourself, taking 3 minutes everyday, always at the same time, to write down how you feel.
To start this beautiful, empowering experiment, I want to gift you a tool to go deeper into your perceptions: here you can find a list of many emotions and feelings that is gonna give new depth to the way you sense what's going on within yourself.
Even more when you feel overwhelmed, but write down how you feel everyday.
And see what happens.
Click here to get your Feelings and Emotions list.