Your strong emotions may be a blessing
A fictional young woman, Jessica has often been anxious but since she’s been with John her anxiety has gotten much worse. It has been over a year now and she just can’t put her finger on what is wrong with her. She uses all the coping skills: deep breathing, playing games on her phone, going for a walk. It helps her to feel better for a bit but soon thereafter the anxiety is right back.
When most of us think of unpleasant emotions, such as anxiety or anger, we usually think they are to be managed and controlled. This is true — sometimes. But what if there is something deeper, more meaningful trying to be conveyed? Maybe our unpleasant emotions are calling us to action. Maybe they are pointing towards living our richest and most fulfilled lives.
Instead, we find ourselves suddenly experiencing outbursts of anger. Perhaps we’ve typically been a little anxious but now we are struggling with constant racing thoughts. Maybe a good night’s sleep is becoming harder to get. Have you considered learning to listen to our emotions to uncover a better way of living and improve our relationships? These blessings aren’t just something we receive, but meant to transform us in order to live our best lives. It is our job to become curious and act upon them honorably.
In our example, Jessica experiences racing thoughts, uneasiness, and constant thought that she is doing something wrong. Her partner, John, is always telling her she’s too sensitive. She just wants to be near him but he says she is needy. She is seeking treatment for her anxiety and just wants it to go away. In therapy, she discusses what she wants out of a relationship. She believes her expectations are too high and the love she is seeking is unattainable. So instead, she decides to “fix” herself.
Now imagine a sort of paradigm shift where nothing is “wrong” with Jessica but rather her anxiety is acting as a signal there is a problem within her relationship. She can choose to change the situation or the way she is responding to it in order to have a lasting decrease in anxiety. Let’s say the fictional Jessica explored her anxiety and found that she was dismissing her desire for affection. She labeled it as wrong as opposed to honoring the fact that she desires affection. She can correct her thinking and honor her desire for affection in her relationship with John. If he insists she is wrong for wanting affection and she agrees with him her anxiety will persist as she is not honoring her true emotion. If John is able to honor her emotion and reevaluates the situation more objectively (e.g. “Jessica likes affection and I do not like affection”) they may be able to find a way to compromise and problem-solve.
What is actually increasing the anxiety in this situation? It’s the error in thinking something is wrong with wanting affection or not wanting affection- neither is wrong they are simply different. With this correction in thinking both Jessica and John would be able to live more fulfilled lives by honoring their true desires and needs. Now they could act upon them accordingly without pointing fingers.
Imagine a fictional man, Will who never struggled with anger until suddenly he began having outbursts of anger. He learns to manage it and control it most of the time. Somehow it always pops back up or he seems to carry it around with him. He doesn’t understand why he wasn’t angry before and now suddenly he is.
He feels embarrassed and ashamed of his anger; “what is wrong with me,” he wonders. A similar error in thinking has occurred. If we become curious about the anger; what it may be trying to convey – we may just find a blessing. In this case, the fictional Will explored his anger and found he is experiencing frustration with not feeling heard in his relationships. He is used to holding his emotions in but now within his psyche there is a call to action. He cannot live like this anymore. His anger is an expression of his frustration and is calling him to be more assertive. As Will learns to express and honor his thoughts and emotions more routinely he finds there is less and less anger to be controlled.
Here are some ideas to honor your emotions:
- More often than not we feel our more challenging emotions are to be managed. We might label ourselves as “bad,” or that feeling strongly means something is “wrong” with us. If we can shift our thinking to being curious about these emotions in order to seek the deeper call to action and then follow through with that action, we may live richer more fulfilled lives.
- Our difficult emotions such as anxiety or anger then have the opportunity to bless our lives within ourselves, our current relationships and all relationships to follow. By correcting our thinking, we allow ourselves to have control over our emotions.
- By stringing together a series of momentary shifts in thinking, we could creating lasting and more sustainable change. Then, on a deeper level, we can become better partners, parents, friends and sons or daughters—a gift that keeps on giving.
If you are having strong emotions and need a partner to walk by your side and explore your relationships, please contact one of our compassionate and knowledgeable counselors at New Directions Counseling. Call us at 724.934.3905