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The Gift of Emotions

Finding power in being with our emotions.

Do you race for a solution when you’re feeling sad? Do you reach for Facebook when anger bubbles up? Do you scramble for another option when disappointment sets in? Many of us meet challenging emotions either with distraction or a “fix it” attitude. Our internal monologue may sound like: What can I do to make these emotions stop…as quickly as possible?

What would it be like instead to:

1) Notice an emotion.

2) Pause.

3) Breathe.

4) Name the emotion specifically. This is called emotional granularity. I am angry becomes I feel resentful. I am sad becomes I feel guilty. (Your ability to aptly name the emotion may come after #7 below, once you’ve been able to sit with it fully).

5) Feel it. Notice the physical sensations. Is your stomach churning, your head pounding, your shoulder slumped, your heart racing? What else? Our bodies hold tremendous wisdom.

6) Notice the thoughts.

7) Be with all of this with compassion and stillness.Can you say to yourself, “This is hard and that’s okay. I’m doing the best I can.”

8) Be aware of any insight or realization that comes after this process.

This process takes practice. You are developing a new habit, moving from “racing to fix” to "pausing to notice" and be with your emotions. At first, you may sit in the discomfort of your emotions for just a few seconds. You will build up a tolerance for sitting with emotions as you practice. Be patient with yourself. You may realize over time that difficult emotions actually pass more quickly when you sit with them than when you tried to push them away.

Note that you can do this process with positive emotions as well. How often do we allow ourselves to sit with being proud or feeling strong or making an important contribution? Can we extend these moments, instead of rushing to the next thing?

Feeling emotions is an important part of being human. It allows us to connect with others and with ourselves. It gives us a barometer when we need it to determine what’s right and what’s wrong. Moreover, emotions offer signals about our intention, purpose, and values. BUT, we can only use the gifts of our emotions when we take the time to tune in.

For an extra mindful focus on emotions, check out this article from the Gottman Institute.

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