Making the switch from believing intrinsically that we are an emotion to believing that emotions are actually like our employees – here to help us manage our days – is very freeing, yet tough to do. In last week’s article, Emotions As Tools of the Soul, we discussed the benefits of this way of viewing our feelings.
This week we take a look at some basic actions to take that are both simple and surprisingly effective at making this shift possible. The more you can incorporate these into your life, the faster your emotions become your own personal assistants in creating a more fulfilling life.
1. WRITE DOWN YOUR EMOTION
I know, this is stunningly radical information I’m imparting here. But the funny thing is, doing this actually produces a rather profound change in how we’re able to process our feelings.
The reason for this is that the act of writing down any recurring emotion that is coming up FOCUSES US ON THE INITIAL FIRST REACTION TO IT. And that first reaction gives us the most authentic clues about what issues in our life need addressed.
I’d suggest keeping it super simple. Writing the word ANGER, JEALOUSY, FEAR, or SADNESS in bold letters is enough. Stick this somewhere you can see it every day, because observing it over and over reminds us not to stuff it back down where it is doing us no good. It forces us to keep facing why we’re so angry or sad or fearful or jealous. And that why holds the key that unlocks the door to solutions.
2. PRACTICE STAYING PRESENT
This is the Mac Daddy of Emotional Enlightenment because it is only in the present that we can observe our emotions in order to answer that why question. When we’re busy continually rehashing what someone did to us (past) or how we are going to make them pay for it (future), we’ve become the emotion instead of learning from it.
It’s so much easier to stay present when we’ve practiced it during times when we’re not emotionally overwrought. Practicing staying present when the stakes aren’t so high makes for a much smoother ride when they are. There are several strategies that can make it easier to stay in the here and now:
- Be the Observer -Start to make a daily habit of stepping back from your thoughts. Think about what you are thinking about, without judging yourself for whatever thoughts pop up.
- Exercise – Even a 10 minute walk can center us back into the present moment.
- Meditate – This is calming and also helps us center our thoughts. Here are links to a few free guided meditations: Deepak and Oprah Feeling Peace Meditation, Doreen Virtue Angel Therapy Meditation. This next one is R-rated, and should only be used in case of emergencies! Jason Headley’s F*ck That: A Guided Meditation for the Realities of Today’s World.
- Take Up a Cause – Giving to others is immensely satisfying, and centers us on what we can do right now to help.
3. TAKE ONE STEP TO RESOLVE WHATEVER THE FEELING IS POINTING YOU TOWARD
Here, we take those reasons why that we discovered when writing down the emotion, and we use them to brainstorm solutions. If you’re jealous of someone’s success, for example, write down some things you can do that would start you on your own path to success.
Start with one item on your brainstormed list and put it into action in your life. That’s it. Once that’s done, you can breath and relax, knowing that you just took one step up the emotional enlightenment ladder. Congratulations.
But don’t forget to:
4. THANK YOUR EMOTIONS FOR THEIR HELP
Just like we would thank our co-workers or employees for a job well done, so too should we show appreciation for our emotions when they point the way to a more fulfilling life. The benefit of doing this is twofold:
- It helps us remember that we are not our emotions, but rather that they are here to assist us.
- It helps us to remember that our so-called negative emotions can be a positive presence in our life if we use them to illuminate the issues behind the issues.
Discussion Question: What other actions can we take to help make our emotions work for us?