Are you comfortable being alone with your emotions? by Sharlene Ho

Emotion. It’s a single world, but once felt, its effect is so wide-range it is like opening a pandora’s box. If someone asks you how you are feeling, what would that be? The excitement of falling in love, the pride in accomplishing your goals, the happiness for other people’s achievements? Or the guilt of finding someone new, the regret of neglecting your family, the envy for others’ success?  

When you are overwhelmed with emotions, what do you often say to yourself? “My feelings are so petty.” “I am so sensitive.” “I am so emotional.”

Why do we downgrade our emotions and blame ourselves for feeling that way? Because we evaluate it us unfitting to our moral values shaped by our environment. But emotions are neither right nor wrong. These are automatic reactions that we experience when faced with overwhelming situations. We are not responsible for the way we feel because it is a result of our past experiences, evolved defenses, genes, learning and conditioning, and needs. It is normal to feel happy, sad, angry, or frustrated over simple things. There is nothing wrong with that because those are our automatic reactions. It is part of our biology, even the negative ones, and we cannot escape from it.

What is so scary about our emotions that we keep on running away from them?

Why are we not comfortable being alone with our uncomfortable emotions?

Sometimes it is hard to be alone with certain emotions because we are not used to it. Once we experience intense emotions, we feel afraid of losing control. We feel threatened and ashamed that it is a sign of weaknesses. Our vulnerable side is exposed, and we don’t know how to deal with it because we did not have the chance to explore it.

Emotions send us information. It leads us to what we should focus on. The question is, what is it telling us?

We need to pay attention and figure out what we feel because it will help us solve our problems so we can respond better and appropriately. If the same emotions are knocking at our door, it is sending us something. If we don’t respond, it will keep on knocking until we open up and welcome them. If we always escape, it will keep on hunting us until we give them our attention. If we delay confronting them, the consequences get more intense over time. It might be communicating the issues that we should work on.

We are not responsible for our emotions, but we are accountable for our actions and decisions. If we don’t understand our feelings, we resort to quick fixes like avoidance or self-harm, which will develop into maladaptive behaviors. When we find it challenging to manage our emotions for a long time, it can lead to emotional dysregulation, which results in anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems. Emotions can be your enemy who pulls you down or your ally who lifts you.

How to become friends with our emotions?

  • Label them. Distinguish between happiness, sadness, anger, or other emotions so we can respond appropriately.
  • Acknowledge them. Recognize and accept what we are feeling, positive and negative, at the moment. Welcome them.
  • Befriend them. Take time to process our emotions like pain or hurt. Understand where it is coming from or why we are feeling certain emotions.
  • Let them go. Release and move on from that emotion. Make peace with our feelings, then let them go. Once we get too comfortable with them, it will be harder to move forward.
  • Turn them into something else. Associate an emotion with an activity. For instance, joy and cooking. How you show joy in cooking. Rage and art. How would we interpret rage as art?

Are you ready to meet your emotions?

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