Don’t Let Your Emotions Overwhelm You; Listen To Them

by Amanda Linehan on January 12, 2009

in Best Of

Does anybody know her? - Wanted! ;)
Creative Commons License photo credit: *madalena-pestana*

“When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion.”  – Dale Carnegie

Your emotions are intelligent.  If you listen to them, they will send you messages.  This is not advice we regularly hear.  Mostly, when we think about people who are emotional, we think of hysterics and out of control behavior.  But, feeling out of control only happens when your emotions are managing you and you are not managing them.

In order to manage your emotions, it is essential that you trust your emotions.  And trust begins when you believe that your emotions are trying to tell you something, and you listen to them.  Here is how to trust, and listen to, your emotions.

Feel Your Emotions

There is a difference between feeling your emotions and indulging your emotions.  Indulging your emotions means wallowing in them.  At that point, your emotions are managing you.  Indulging your emotions makes you feel as if you are sinking into them, your feet no longer have solid ground beneath them.  And, you feel powerless to stop the sinking.

On the other hand, feeling your emotions means you are noticing the sensations that they create in your body.  For instance, when I’m feeling sad my body feels heavy and sluggish.  Those sensations are how I feel my sadness.  But, though I can feel them, I’m not sinking into them.  I can feel my emotions while still maintaining a sense of my own self.

Identify Your Emotions

Oftentimes, when we feel a lot of strong emotion at a particular event or circumstance, there is more than one emotion at work.  Teasing out exactly what you feel helps you to know what steps to take next.  This is a part of why we get so overwhelmed.  When we can’t name our emotions, we feel overpowered by them.  We are just a jumble of feelings.

Listen To Your Emotions

Naming your emotions and feeling them in your body allows you, all at once, to pay attention to them without losing your sense of self in them.  Your emotions at any given time are one part of your experience, they are not the whole thing.

Listening to your emotions is simple.  Just ask “Why do I feel ( insert whatever emotion you are feeling).”  The answer you get back is the message you are supposed to get.  You will have to ask “Why” a few times to get to the root of the emotion.  Unfortunately, the root of the emotion my be unpleasant or painful, but it’s this awareness that will move you forward in your life and help you to grow as you should.

For example, you are working on a project at work and it’s not going as well as you would like.  You feel intensely frustrated and you ask “why?”.  You realize that since you started this job, you haven’t felt comfortable in it.  When you ask “why” again, you realize that you don’t feel competent in your role.  As you ask again, you realize that you often view yourself as not being “good enough.”  You can then take action on this belief about yourself because it is the root of your emotion.

Asking For Help

Asking “why” and receiving answers can get painful, but ultimately you will come to the root of the emotion and that root is what you need to take action on.  At some point in the process, if things become too painful or you feel stuck, it would be wise to seek out someone trained in helping people through difficult emotions.  You may not need this help, but you might.  Being self aware doesn’t mean you have to do it all by yourself, it just means you have to be committed to the process.  So don’t hesitate to ask for help if you need it.

Listening to your emotions is not a self indulgent activity, it is an important activity for your personal growth and development.  Trust your emotions.

What are some of your strategies for dealing with emotions?  Feel free to answer in the comments section.


{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

1 LifeMadeGreat - Juliet January 13, 2009 at 1:31 am

Hi Amanda

I love that you mention the physical feeling of emotions.

So often we think of it as only being in our minds, but we are beings of mind and body. I learnt this very much when studying and practicing as a kinesiologist.

We need to listen to our bodies as well as our minds. In fact, often the body is less confusing and more direct in its message.

Juliet

LifeMadeGreat – Juliet’s last blog post..What Are You Thirsting For?

2 Jarrod - Warrior Development January 13, 2009 at 4:48 am

Noticing emotions versus indulging them is critical to maintain a consistently happy life.

I’m not sure about them always being intelligent though.

Today I was working with a colleague on a tough problem and he was getting very frustrated to the point of being angry. Whenever he would have a mini-outburst I could feel an emotion of fear burr into my chest wanting me to hide away. But seeing it I recognise it for its stupidity as that is not the way to best handle this situation.

3 Lance January 13, 2009 at 9:32 am

Hi Amanda,
Listening to your emotions – I like that thought very much. It’s easy to let our emotions “get the best of us” – and we’re thought of as “too emotional” or “showing no emotion”, etc. Yet, if we experience the emotion and then listen to it – we can use those feelings to get a better understanding – and how important that is! Amanda, thanks for sharing this – if there’s an area I struggle with, this is probably it…

Lance’s last blog post..Sunday Thought For The Day

4 Amanda Linehan January 14, 2009 at 9:08 pm

Juliet – Yes, I agree that our bodies can be more direct in communication. You just have to be paying attention!

Jarrod – Yes, we don’t always want to follow our emotions where they are leading us, but they do always have a message for us which is why I’m calling them “intelligent.”

Lance – Understanding where our emotions are coming from helps us to take the right action, so, like you said, we don’t get too emotional!

5 Ari Koinuma January 14, 2009 at 11:42 pm

Hey Amanda,

What a timely post — I had an emotional day today. Sometimes my feelings do get pretty overwhelming, as I’m a very emotional guy. ;-)

Thanks for this.

ari

Ari Koinuma’s last blog post..Embracing Reality (Especially When It’s Challenging)

6 Arswino January 15, 2009 at 2:29 am

Hi Amanda, I like when you mentioned about ‘listen to your emotion’. I realize it is not so easy, it needs practices continuously.
and question word “why”, you’re right, it is not only applicable when we seek the root of a problem, but it can be applied to seek the root of the emotion instead.
Thanks for sharing this, Amanda.

Arswino’s last blog post..Achievement of Goals

7 Daphne January 15, 2009 at 6:59 am

Hi Amanda,

Nice distinction between feeling your emotions and indulging them. I also agree that identifying emotions is important, instead of reducing every feeling to ‘anger’, ‘sadness’ or ‘happiness’. We have such a rich repertoire of feelings and should welcome the opportunity to experience the whole range! Thanks for this post.

Daphne’s last blog post..Interview: Lance from Jungle of Life

8 Amanda Linehan January 15, 2009 at 6:34 pm

Ari – You’re welcome. I guess recognizing our emotions is another part of “embracing reality.”

Arswino – Yes, “why” is an important question that we need to continually ask.

Daphne – Thanks for the comment! I agree our emotions don’t really fall into neat categories.

9 Kathryn February 1, 2009 at 12:17 pm

Thank you for your post, Amanda. Recently there have been a lot of “sensations” coming up for me (going to be a new mom) and the way I have been dealing with them is by 1) acknowledging them – they are “on top” so to speak, so they must be the most important thing for me to be noticing/dealing with. 2) if I’m in a place I can do so, sitting still and bringing an attitude of curiosity, welcoming and allowing to them – taking time to watch them move, morph, travel, have life and eventually dissipate 3) along with asking “why” is the practice of identifying the core beliefs (which are universal) and naming the thoughts. For example, what am I thinking while I feel this “emotion” – or what thought triggered it? It could be the universal belief “I am flawed,” or “I’ve done something wrong.” For these practices, I turn to the Sedona Method and also The Work of Byron Katie. Both have been very helpful to me in transforming thoughts and feelings into emotional literacy. Katie calls this way of working with emotions “medicine.”

Also, to me, indulging an emotion is not accepting it – wanting it to “go away” which seems like the opposite of indulging. But the more I reject a thought or feeling, the more power it holds over me (begin to identify it because it has been given a ‘reality’ of its own). When I reject the thought or feeling and it begins to have power over me, then addictive behavior starts – worrying and fretting about the future, over exercising, going to movies, saying affirmations – all these things, for ME, are a way of reinforcing the wall that I build when I reject my emotions. And yet, when there are nights of insomnia because of the emotions, and it seems that they aren’t exiting the system as fast as i would like, I have to find a new paradigm for living – Society would call this “loss of functioning” and the medical model would cry “restore functioning at all costs”-
but in the mystic traditions, these times are passages that are really preparing us for a more expanded and happier way of relating to ourselves and the world we live in. So then, the questions I bring to inquiry are “I can’t handle this” or “this is too much” or “people will think I’m weak” or “I can’t afford to take this time off” or “people won’t understand” or “the body mind can’t handle this.” My coach recently invited me to become a scientist during these occasions – to get a notebook and paper and timer and time the moments when the sensations are speaking the loudest and watch them as outlined above (with curiosity and welcoming). Using this scientific approach, I found that I was able to endure very little sleep for several days (14 hrs in four days) with this approach as I watched things move and shift and change. In fact, I found my willingness and excitement over the whole process grow the less sleep I got! And, I trusted I would get the sleep when my body really really needed it (which I did). The result has been that I am moving through this episode with much more flexibility and fluidity and it is not being prolonged by resistance. Of course, in between this concentrated time were plenty of long walks, eating, exercising, resting (if not sleeping), reaching out when I needed to, reading, dancing, and other things that appeared “on top” when some emotions had dissipated.

now, a question comes up for me: When I’m a new mother and emotions/sensations are strong and “on top” and the baby appears to have strong sensations that are “on top” in the form of crying, how do I both care for myself and the baby at the same time? I suppose the stressful thoughts I can question are:
1) I won’t want to comfort a crying baby (it won’t come naturally) (is it true?)
2) The baby’s needs are more important than mine (is it true?)
3) My needs are more important than the baby (is it true?)
4) When I have strong sensations running through my body, I need to address them immediately (is it true?)
5) Addressing a crying baby is not addressing myself (is it true?)
6) I must rely on my own strength (is it true?)

So this “either/or paradigm is getting looked at right now.” I believe there is away to both be addressing your own inner life and the life of those around you without resisting either. So, to that end, one breath at a time!

Thanks again for your post.

Kathryn

10 Amanda Linehan February 1, 2009 at 2:52 pm

Kathryn – Wow, thanks for your comment! I really like the last question you bring up – how you address your own inner life and the life of those around you at the same time. That is a question I have just asked myself recently and I’m not sure I have an answer yet. But, ultimately, I do believe there is a way.

I don’t have children myself so I can’t speak specifically to any of your more specific questions, but I did like how you pointed out that these periods of confusion and heavy emotions/sensations are often “passages” that we go through where we come out different on the other side. This is a really helpful perspective to have when our lives feel painful/uncomfortable.

Keep seeking answers. I wish you the best on your new journey! “One breath at a time.” :)

11 green ink July 8, 2009 at 7:18 am

Sorry for coming to this late Amanda, but wow – this is a great post. I particularly liked this bit: “There is a difference between feeling your emotions and indulging your emotions. Indulging your emotions means wallowing in them. At that point, your emotions are managing you. ”

I think I’ve been OVER indulging lately! Thanks for the wake up call. You write very well and I’ve enjoyed what I’ve read so far. :D
.-= green ink´s last blog ..friday on my desk (and mind) =-.

12 Amanda Linehan July 8, 2009 at 9:36 pm

Hi green ink – It’s never too late! :) Emotions are tricky because they can rule us and yet they won’t get the best of us if we just listen to what they have to say.

13 Personal Growth April 2, 2010 at 4:31 pm

Very nicely written. you have covered the concept in a real nice manner. In most of my post i often talk about human being as emotional fool and how they need to be aware of themselves. I personally feel too much of it or tpp less of it is always going to be harmful. Hence the biggest challenge is to maintain balance…………..

14 Abdulaziznorat February 11, 2011 at 12:21 pm

Amanda,
I appreciate your deep knowledge about feelings ! That I feel to read your article here !

15 puneet January 12, 2012 at 5:45 am

really nice. few understand the importance of e-motions. self help books go on and on on “acceptance” of self etc… the other ones are focused on creation and creation… few talk about ground reality of Now. e-motion is about that.
1. trust ur energy
2. accept ur FEELING… completely…
the fun begins here….

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: