EMOTIONS…..we all have them! Not one of us can escape them, although some sure try! They can rule us, guide us, teach us, shame us. They can take us by surprise, and (if we allow) help us to recognize when something isn’t quite how it should be. But the reality is this! They’re always there, welcome or not.
One of my children in particular (who shall remain nameless) has, as long as I remember, been a highly emotional human being. We often commented on how she experiences the extreme of many emotions and a little of what’s in between! In the toddler years we witnessed tantrums to end all tantrums! And in all honesty….I wondered where I’d gone wrong as a parent. However as time has passed and my husband and I have taught our daughter how to recognise and regulate her emotions, she has grown in her ability to do just that. She hasn’t reached perfection (nor do we expect her to), but we’re incredibly proud of the self-control she now chooses…even if only on occasions… to exercise when there’s opportunity to just run with those heightened emotions. She has proven to herself that she has the ability to recognize those big emotions as they bubble toward the surface…and then to actually make a choice to manage them in the most effective and appropriate possible way.
Have you ever heard the proverb, “Teach a child in the way they shall go and when they’re old they won’t depart from it”? This applies to the positive and negative things we teach our kids.
What are we teaching our children, through the model we’re demonstrating to them? Is it one that will help them make their way in the world as well-adjusted, considerate, compassionate, loving and resilient human beings who are fully aware of the impact of their words and behaviour on themselves and others?
For me personally, I have had, and continue, to work on areas in my personal life that need adjusting in regard to managing my emotions at times. I could find plenty of excuses as to why I might be emotional at any given time, including sleep deprivation, hormonal imbalances, illness etc etc etc…but in all honesty, that’s just not going to cut it when I see my own children grow up fighting the same battles I’ve fought. I want my kids to have a head-start on where I am. I still cut myself some slack and offer a bit of grace where required – please don’t misunderstand me – but I don’t ever want to use laziness as an excuse. I have a responsibility to myself and to my children to lead by example. An example that will set them up for a lifetime of healthy relationships, a healthy view of themselves, and a healthy body and mind. I need to add here that I am NOT talking about ignoring or denying our big or difficult emotions. I absolutely advocate the importance of developing the courage to be present with those emotions and validating ourselves in those moments. What I am referring to in this article is more about the negative impact of uncontrolled emotions that we know to be destructive either to ourselves or others.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my years on this planet, it’s that emotions can be hard to tame….BUT so incredibly worth learning how to manage, so we don’t have to live our lives subject to them. The only other options? To be enslaved by every emotion that arises OR to shut down all emotion and essentially live from a place of emotional bankruptcy!
Not sure about you, but neither of those options sound particularly enticing to me!
So how do we learn to manage our emotions so they don’t manage us? Is it even possible?
And what even qualifies me to be speaking on this topic?
So, first of all…..I’m a wife, a mum, a daughter, a sister, an auntie, a granddaughter, a niece, a friend, a confidante, a mentor, a student and last but not least a professional mental health counsellor. My ‘bio’ might indicate without many more words just how many opportunities there might be in my life for emotions of many and varied kinds to show up.
And I can say that in all of those roles and relationships that I value so intensely, I’ve messed up, I’ve laughed, I’ve let people down, I’ve built them up, I’ve looked up to some, I’ve been let down, I’ve been hurt, I’ve been elated, I’ve been sad, I’ve been hope-filled, I’ve been depressed, I’ve experienced the deepest joy, I’ve been betrayed, I’ve been misunderstood, I’ve been angry, I’ve been isolated, I’ve been exhausted, I’ve forgiven and I’ve struggled to forgive. And I’ve made it through each of those strong emotions (and a whole lot more) with a splash of courage, not nearly enough grace, a whole lot of humility, a huge amount of determination to move forward from that place with a sweeter attitude, a more compassionate heart and a desire to be better and do better than I did in that moment just passed.
I see so many people in this world we live in who are tossed around by their emotions like the waves on a stormy sea. I can say that I certainly still have my moments. But what I do know is that I am in a much better place than I once was.
So, like you, I’m on a journey – with my destination firmly fixed in my sight – I’m further along that path than I was a few years ago, and a little more so than I was yesterday. My goal is that everyday I’m growing and becoming a better version of myself than I was the day before.
Do I still beat myself up sometimes? YES!!! Especially when I knew better and allowed my emotions to take charge (for whatever reason at all!) But I’ve learned something. I’ve learned that forgiving myself is perhaps the most profound part of my ‘moving forward’ journey. Much easier said than done. I know that for certain. But a choice worth making over and over and over again!
So how? How do we learn to manage our emotions?
ONE STEP AT A TIME.
It all begins with a willingness to want to make a change. Then allowing yourself to go on that journey. For some of you, you’ll need some help along the way. I’m actually going to be bold enough to suggest, that most of us do. Yet many hide their secret struggles with their big emotions, allowing shame to cloud their identity in a way that keeps them from stepping out of the shadows and actually seeking the help they so desperately need. In order to move forward and gain emotional clarity and freedom, we need to allow ourselves to begin processing the pain of our past, and the baggage it lives in.
There’s actually a whole lot more to it. But in a nutshell that is all it takes to get started on the journey to emotional wholeness.
So YES…I am encouraging you to step out of the ‘cloud of shame’ and make a commitment to yourself today to find the support, the professional help and understanding you need to get you out of the emotional rut you’ve found yourself in.
You need to know that you ARE worth the investment! Prove it to yourself today.
With you on the journey,