Two years ago almost to the day (don’t you love the universal mystery of time?), I wrote this post.
And man was it an eye opener. So many things started shifting after that.
Have I gotten rid of all my anger? No, but I got rid of the parts that were standing in my way.
Emotions are there for a reason. They usually alert us that something is wrong, dangerous, out of balance, that we need to protect ourselves.
They happen when
- we step out of our comfort zones
- we enter new situations
- we meet new people
- our boundaries get trespassed
- our values are ignored
- our wishes are not met
- our triggers buttons get pressed
It is human to have a tendency to run with those emotions and for example have a fit or rage because someone trespassed our boundary. Because negative emotions zero in on what’s going on. They oblige us to really focus our awareness. And that might be very helpful when we’re trying to run away from a charging tiger.
We are not in those situations very often anymore. However, our limbic brain still seems to think so!
So instead, we need to learn to teach our brain to look at that emotion and see what exactly created it: is there really a tiger?
So let’s dig a little deeper.
Robert Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions.
Emotions are not the same as feelings.
Emotions are a more lower level response. Your first bodily/mental reaction to something. They happen in the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex, areas that are responsible for producing biochemical reactions that have a direct impact on your physical state: the fight or flight response. Emotions are what shoots out first. Emotions steer our physical cues such as blood flow, heart rate, brain activity, facial expressions, and body language.
Feelings on the other hand are our reactions to those emotions. They are more subjective and influenced by our personal experiences and interpretations. They happen in the neocortex and are all about how we respond to the emotions.
So let’s all think and be positive, right?
Negative emotions aren’t bad. They are actually useful.
A study by Todd Kashdan and Robert Biswas-Diener (source
) even goes as far as to say that a person who avoids negativity misses out on the benefits of being “whole” – a person who
experiences both positive and negative emotions harnesses each to their full potential.
My experience with anger two years ago, and actually many other emotional rollercoasters before and since, confirm this.
And since my word for this year is FEEL, I have vouched to dig deeper into this.
My wise friend who got me to honour my anger, also suggested to not fight those negative emotions but to use them as a mirror and see if I can see the other, positive side of it. A positive side that nourishes me instead of destroys or disperses me.
How does one do that?
It is not easy, let me tell you that! But, like with anything, the more you practice it the better you get at it.
Everything always starts with awareness. Change cannot happen without it.
What helps me a lot when emotions are running away with me, is to apply the SBNRR method.
Last year I attended a two day workshop of the Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute (SIY), a mindfulness program that was developed by Google for internal use, but it’s now offered to the public.
Here’s how that works:
- Stop. This is the most important step. Instead of becoming wrapped up in the emotion or making an impulse decision, just stop. Decide to take a moment.
- Breathe. Take a deep breath. This helps clear your mind, as well as helps physiologically calm down your brain.
- Notice. Notice what you’re experiencing on a moment to moment basis. What are you feeling in your body? What emotions are you experiencing? Is it static or is it changing? Does the emotion seem out of proportion compared to the trigger?
- Reflect. What’s causing the emotion? Is it the right response? Is a part of you feeling attacked, belittled or threatened? Is there a story to the experience you’re having?
- Respond. Think of all the different courses of actions you can take. Consider the kindest, most compassionate way to respond to the situation (even if you don’t take that path.) Finally, make a conscious decision on how to respond.
So to give you an idea of what that may look like in daily life, here is a list of some emotions/feelings and how they can look from the other side of the reflection mirror.
Are there any other emotions (feelings) that you are experiencing or struggling with right now?
Let me know in the comments below or via email.