Photo by Jeremy Thomas on Unsplash
Have you ever noticed how sometimes one emotion you feel over time turns into a different one? For instance, anxiety can easily become anger. Or internalized anger can turn into depression. Sometimes fear turns to anger and chronic anger can become resentment. What causes our emotions to shift? We may feel uncomfortable or powerless with the original emotion and substitute a more palatable one instead. Or maybe the accumulation of the original emotion morphs into a different one over time. We all experience a full gamut of different feelings, but don't always recognize them as they make their way into our conscious state. Often we'd rather not feel the negative emotions, but instead focus only on the positive ones. Unfortunately that tactic isn't the healthiest or best approach since when we suppress the negative emotions we inadvertently also suppress the positive feelings. We end up putting a governor on our emotions or regulating the intensity level of our feelings which limits the highs and lows we experience. When we learn that all emotions have a purpose and meaning then we'll be less inclined to avoid the unwelcome feelings. As I've said many times, emotions are the glue to connect people and to experience deep and intimate relationships requires emotional connection.
In order to avoid or explain our emotional pain we often seek solutions, answers, and knowledge. Of course having information and understanding has great value as long as it is not a way of avoiding the emotional impact. Sometimes we will not fully understand a situation and struggle to accept it, but we can still experience and express the emotion tied to the circumstance. Previous generations, and some people even today, believe that emotion, especially for a man, is a sign of weakness or vulnerability and holding it inside is the best option. When you're at work, need to be focused, or in other solution-driven situations, displaying emotions may be a hindrance. However, interpersonally and relationally emotions have great value and benefit. Our ability to feel emotions enables us to have compassion and understand people better. So how do we recognize our emotions and cope with them before they spiral out of control?
For starters, we can identify the specific emotion that we first experience, name it, and allow ourselves to experience it. Maybe we have physical sensations, mental thoughts, and/or behavioral symptoms tied to our emotions. We can choose to let those feelings flow through us. Sharing and expressing the feelings openly and directly with others can be another positive way to release them and possibly confront the emotional pain. Some people prefer to journal or engage in mindfulness to allow the feelings to be released. Distractions are used by many to avoid emotions, with limited success. Even exercise which is a very positive strategy can sometimes not eliminate the negative feelings. Make a decision to find closure for your emotions through forgiveness, letting them go, giving them to God, and/or accepting that we have limits of control. Although these steps are very difficult to accomplish, realize that hanging onto the pain can be more damaging. Seek to release.