Our emotions can’t be controlled. We can’t decide when we feel sad, or angry, but we can decide how we react to these emotions, and how we let them affect us. Ultimately, we want to get to a place where we feel as though there are no longer “unwanted” emotions. They are all wanted, loved, and desired. What makes us miserable is when we want something different from what we have, and this includes emotions. What gets us to a better mental state is being okay with, accepting, and even wanting what we already have.
Of course, that’s easier said than done.
The thinking state vs. the feeling state
There’s a pattern I see in men: they have a feeling state that leads directly to a thinking state. When men feel big emotions, they immediately switch to the thinking state. They don’t take the time to process and truly feel the emotion, because they’ve jumped directly into overanalyzing the situation and trying various problem-solving tactics without truly understanding what problem they’re even trying to solve.
Because we aren’t able to properly process our feelings when we have big emotional reactions to something, we end up feeling all sorts of negative feelings, such as guilt, anger, and frustration. But we don’t know why we feel that way. In a way, it’s like we are stuck in that emotion with no way forward, and no idea how we got there.
In reality, we keep ourselves stuck there. We are in a state of ruminating, a state of resisting, and we don’t understand that we need to reverse and go back to the feeling state before we can get out of this cycle of our negative reactions and unhelpful emotions.
Moving back to the feeling state
Men are taught from a young age that we are supposed to be strong, stoic, silent, clear, and rational at all times. As a result, emotions like anger, guilt, frustration, and sadness are seen as ugly for men, because they show vulnerability and a lack of control. Therefore, when we experience big emotions, we refuse to let ourselves feel them properly – but this only leads to more confusion and unwanted emotions as we get stuck in that cycle of over-analyzing everything and trying to shift blame to someone else.
In order to move on from this stuck state, we have to get back to that original feeling. There’s a freedom you feel when you recognize a feeling and instead of trying to squash it or hide it, you welcome it. You sit with it and you try to let it wash over you.
There’s a big difference between allowing yourself to have a healthy relationship with your feelings, and “wallowing” in or “dwelling” on your feelings. Dwelling on something with no goal for how to deal with it is nonproductive and won’t allow you to move forward. In fact, dwelling is usually just more analyzing. But allowing yourself to understand your emotions and feel them to their full extent will help you come to terms with your own emotional state and move forward in a healthier way.
You simply cease being out of rapport with what is.
Half of the work is just getting to a place where we can recognize feelings in the safety of our own personal space without having to let anyone else in. Often, we have a hard time with our emotions because there is actually an underlying emotion, much larger or more significant than the ones we feel at the surface, that we haven’t felt properly or even allowed to be there. Sometimes it is so well-buried that we don’t recognize that we’ve jumped into the strategizing and problem solving stage, because we don’t even know those emotions are there.
You don’t have to like your emotions, but you have to accept them
Being okay with our emotions is halfway to mastering the chaos of our psyche, because ultimately, it is the choice we make to be with ourselves.
So my challenge to you is this: the next time you find yourself getting angry, or feeling victimized, or feeling guilty, and you don’t know why, try to recognize the instinct to jump right into thinking about it. Resist the temptation to blame someone else for the emotions you are feeling. Notice the underlying emotions, and try to figure out why they are familiar. Where have you felt them before? Is it vulnerable to admit this is familiar? Taking the time to slow down and truly feel your emotions can help stop you from projecting your hurt and anger onto those around you. No one can hurt you but yourself.
If you need help with this concept, or want to learn more about the thinking and the feeling stages, feel free to reach out and book a call.