What If Our Emotions Are Conspiring in Our Favor?
Part of being human is experiencing a wide range of emotions -- excitement, sorrow and everything in between. I enjoy and welcome the feelings of happiness and contentment, but tend to quickly resist and ignore feelings of fear, sorrow, and anger. But is it necessary and to my benefit to do this?
I have a close relationship with anxiety. We have known each other well for decades. During my experience with cancer four years ago, our relationship went to a new level. It peaked and plummeted and was quite a wild ride. It was through that experience that I started to see my relationship with emotions in a new light and with fresh eyes. Cancer has a way of bringing many new perspectives. Yet the longer I have been in remission, I seem to catch myself falling back into my same old patterns with anxiety that I knew well for so long BC (before cancer).
How to Practice Managing Your Emotions
A few months ago, I became quite aware that anxiety was hanging around more often. Ignoring, running from, and resisting anxiety was once again not working. Although I tried it! It only seemed to fuel it. Resistance has a way of making emotions grow. It’s like giving a crying toddler ‘resistance’ candy in an effort to calm them down. It may work for a short while, but it comes back hungrier and crankier.
I have been experimenting with a 5-step process and have found it to be powerful when managing emotions. Give it a try and see how it helps you next time you’re faced with an unpleasant emotion, especially in the workplace:
Step 1: Identify the emotion that is present. This sounds easy, but at times this needs some exploration. I personally like to use apps such as Stop, Breathe, Think to help me tune into what emotion I am feeling. By seeing the emotive words on my screen, I can try it on, feel and sense which emotion is an accurate fit. Taking time to check in can help pinpoint what I am experiencing.
Step 2 - Thank it. Yep, give great amounts of gratitude for the emotion. “Thank you, fear, anxiety and even sadness for being here. I know you are conspiring in my favor and have something to show me.” The emotion itself is not what brings about pain. Unfortunate and painful things happen in life, and the emotion is there to help us cope. It is there to be a channel for which to release the pain and trapped energy that is caught inside of our bodies. It can act as a conduit to help us get unstuck.
Step 3 - Ask it. With kindness and curiosity, ask, “What do you want to show me?” I have started to see my emotions like a child or a pet. It needs to be seen, paid attention to and held before it will quiet down. Our emotions need to be shown love too. Imagine that! A few weeks ago my cat Mikey was meowing at 4:30 in the morning. Typically I get up around 5:30, so I was not happy about his early awakening. I put my pillow over my head and tried to fall back to sleep, but Mikey wasn’t having it. He only meowed louder. I reluctantly got up and asked him what he wanted. He led me to his food and water bowl and sat down beside it. Once I fed him he quieted down. I see my emotions like Mikey. We can try to put them off but they will only grow louder until we acknowledge them. Elizabeth Gilbert speaks of our fears being invited to ride shotgun. “Your fear is allowed in the car. It's going to be there anyway, so it's not even a question of whether it's allowed. You can't get rid of it. It's going to be there, but it doesn't get to drive. It doesn't get to hold the map.”
Step 4 - Listen with Curiosity. After I have identified the emotion that is present, thanked it and asked it what it wants to show me, I must listen deeply to its wisdom. There are many more ways to listen than just with our ears. We have three centers of intelligence from which to draw upon. We have our minds to think, our hearts to feel and our gut instinctual space from which to sense. There is typically one of these centers in which we default to and are more familiar with so I have to remember to call a committee meeting to check in with all three. What is it that my mind wants to analyze, what does my heart want to communicate to me or can I hear the inner knowing of my gut?
Step 5 - Trust that the answer is on the way. I have a powerful source of advisors in my three centers and when I call upon them, they work together magnificently. We have an internal wisdom that when tapped, answers the call. The emotions still come and go. It is not about eliminating our emotions but working with them. I notice when I approach them with curiosity and love, they don’t seem to have the damaging, blow-me-over effect that I used to experience. Surprisingly, they don’t stick around as long as they used to either.
The next time you find yourself experiencing ‘negative’ emotions, consider this: perhaps there is something your emotions are trying to show you, which could be valuable if you engage in a new way. Because if our emotions are indeed conspiring in our favor, there can be great benefits in working together.