“One can be the master of what one does, but never of what one feels.”
Most people consider that quote above to be truth. There is a prevailing belief that our feelings are something that blows through the wind like dandelion fluff, hard to grasp and impossible to control. We wake up, stick our finger to the wind of our emotions and pray for a good day, hoping for the sun to shine in the window of our heart.
It doesn’t have to be that way. While hormones,chemistry, diet and health do have a role to play in emotional health, there is a great deal we can do to be more intentional about our feelings.
It All Begins With Awareness
Before you can gain control over your emotions, the first step is to become aware of what you are feeling in the first place. Many people are experts at stuffing their emotions away with the use of vices, such as food, alcohol, drugs, TV and social media. So much so, that if you asked them how they are feeling at any exact moment, they might shrug their shoulders and say, “I dunno, frustrated, I guess.” And they might be. But they haven’t really taken the time or energy to dig a little further to discover what is underneath the frustration.
In order to dig deeper, you first need more awareness of what you are feeling in the first place. This doesn’t mean you have to take ACTION on those feelings, only that you need to be consciously aware of what they are. Warning: This can be a big step, and often an overwhelming one if you have been stuffing your emotions for a very long time. Recovering emotional eaters share countless stories about how they were rocked to their core when they uncovered all of the hidden emotions they had been blocking with food. Be gentle with yourself if your new-found awareness is overpowering. Journaling helps, as does sharing some of these emotional barrages with a trusted friend. Try not to act on these new emotions as there is a good chance they may be fleeting, or related to old issues that aren’t a part of your current situation right now. Let them come up, like dirt in the garden as a new seed pushes forth. You are creating something brand new, and bringing up some old dirt is a natural part of the process. Be patient, it will wash away the more you get used to noticing your emotions.
Acknowledging the Choice
The second step is the realization that we CAN CHOOSE our thoughts, which in turn plays a very strong role in our emotions and feelings. I have often heard variations on, “I can’t help it if I think that… it’s just what I think, what am I supposed to do about it?” Believers of this thought process are choosing to be victims of their own minds, held captive to the random thoughts perpetrated by belief systems they may not have even chosen for themselves. Old tapes running through our minds have been there so long, ingrained at such an early age, that when the tapes start playing, we don’t even notice they are there. And yet- those old tapes are holding us hostage and keeping us from creating the life we want to have.
How do we escape?
Asking ourselves a series of questions can help us to sharpen the awareness that will create that change.
How Do I feel Right Now? Try to move beyond vague generalizations such as tired, hungry, frustrated, and mad. Dig a little deeper. I feel judged, worried, picked on, rejected, lost, confused, overwhelmed… find words that can help you narrow down the reasons behind the emotions.
Do I WANT to Feel This Way? If the emotions are negative ones, your knee-jerk reaction might be, “Of course I don’t, you bone-head, who would WANT to feel terrible?” But wait, hold on. We invest a lot of time, energy and drama holding on to our emotions, especially when they are negative. Think about it: When you are in a rotten mood and someone tries to lift you out of it, how receptive are you to their attempts? Do you snarl when they suggest some peaceful meditation might be a good idea, or that things might not be as bad as they seem? Do you think, “That’s not really helpful right now, why don’t you just leave me ALONE!!!”
If you do, don’t feel bad. It’s pretty normal. Even in nature, it isn’t a great idea to try to pet an angry animal. Once the emotions are on high scream alert, it isn’t an easy task to try a smiley face rewind. However, if you can get a grip on yourself long enough to ask the question, Do I WANT to feel this way? Chances are that there will be enough reason in there for common sense to start talking you down from the ledge yourself. At least enough for others to come in to help if needed.
How Do I WANT to Feel? Once you have wrestled your errant emotions to the ground and reigned them in, the final piece to the puzzle is the proactive choice. How do you want to feel? For me, that answer is usually some version of: Serene, content, joyful, grateful, but you may have your own emotions you want to experience. Call them out by name. Then ask yourself one final question.
What Actions Do I Need to Take Right Now to Feel That Way? Now, one word of caution. This isn’t intended to be a license to create a huge To Do list. This is meant to help you find ONE ACTION STEP that you can do RIGHT NOW to move you closer to your goal. Just one. Then you can think of one more after that. Remember, our goal is teeny-tiny baby steps. Not overwhelm.
Learning to manage your emotions is a life-long practice. Don’t expect overnight success. There are many more tips and habits that can help to become adapt at being more aware of them. In another post, we will talk about more of those practices. But for now, I would love to hear from you. What other tips do you have to share about getting in touch with, and managing your feelings and emotions?
Donna Lynn says
This is an article I have been wishing I could see for a while. Can you share any resources – books, blogs, etc – that you used for this article?
Wendi Kelly says
I’m glad you liked the article. I didn’t use any specific resource for this, though I will say I first came across many of these concepts when I went through my training as a weight loss trainer through weight watchers. Since then, these concepts have been taught by every coach and trainer I have come across and learned from as well.
Getting in touch with your emotions, feelings and guiding beliefs are an important part of lasting change.
If you are looking for a specific book that dives into a deeper look on the subject, I would recommend The Big Leap, by Gay Hedricks http://www.thebigleap.net/
Kari Whittington says
This is wonderful Wendi! Acknowledge, Acceptance, Action. You outlined it very well. For me, the last line in the last paragraph resonated with me. “Learning to manage your emotions is a life long practice.” How true is that!?? To think that one can take a course, read a book, years of therapy or whatever tools one has in his/her belt is going to somehow get you to that destination and miraculously change you into a person who ALWAYS thinks and acts in this positive “Nirvana” approach to life is just fooling themselves. Negative feelings and thought processes rear their ugly heads constantly and it takes vigilance and perception shifting daily to get out of the black hole that it really wants us to go and stay. Well, for me at least. Maybe it’s in my DNA , maybe it’s my disease talking. you know, the one that sits on my shoulder and whispers in my ear, “come on, let’s go back to what is “comfortable” and “fun” and what you know”. “‘ Years and years of negative thinking, destructive patterns, self loathing,self delusion are patterns that are familiar and “what I know” so it is sometimes challenging to say the least to turn the negative into a positive. My spiritual and emotional health are progressive. It takes daily vigilance. Sometimes it’s really REALLY hard to reconcile my feelings. Other days, it is as if I was BORN a positive thinker and doer. Hmmmm. I don’t think we can do anything very well in this world unless we PRACTICE it. Cultivating faith that everything is going to be “ok” regardless is something I do every single day. And on those days that I am filled with gratitude and love and awareness of my blessings, well, those days are gifts beyond measure.
Wendi Kelly says
I love what you wrote, thanks for that great addition. You know, your “Disease” as you call it, is maybe more accepted as a disease by our culture as a disease and there are treatments, support groups, etc… but I am beginning to believe that we all, or at least I will say most of us, have that devil on our shoulder in some form or another. For me, it was binge eating, ( I should say still… Hence the half a loaf of french bread when my dog got stung by a bee this week. oops!) or having clutter get out of control and overwhelming us, letting my ADHD get the best of my systems and structures and falling off the “Wagon” of balance and having to pull it together again.
For others, it is negativity, depression, social media black holes, procrastination, gossip, hatred, gambling….the list goes on…
And the fix is the same. The Daily Practice of Awareness, Acceptance, Action. And I do believe the word PRACTICE is the key. There is no Cure, there is no Arrival, there is only the daily return to the practice.
What? Only a half a loaf of French bread? Pffft… How about a half a jar of Peanut Butter?!! I can’t get enough of peanut butter. Peanut butter is my go to craving. I love peanut butter. Peanut butter likes my hips and butt. I think, although I shouldn’t BLAME my mom, BUT I remember that Mom used to take a spoon and dip in in the peanut butter jar and savor every little scrumptious lick. Me? Well, that’s an entirely different story. I can’t stop at just ONE lovin spoonful of peanut butter. I have to go back to the pantry and take another dip. Then , sometimes, I will “hide” the peanut butter behind a box of something or other so it is out of sight as if to try and fool myself thinking I won’t go back for yet another spoonful. My addictive personality knows otherwise. Sometimes I think, well , if I tape the jar shut, put it on the top shelf of the cabinet above the fridge where I would have to get a stool to climb up to get it AND if I put a note in big fat letters saying “OFF LIMITS TO KARI”, I won’t imbibe in said peanut butter. Sigh.. once an addict always an addict .. oh well, at least it has protein right? lol!I know, a little off topic here but I had to share…=)
Miriam Wiener says
Wendi, you’ve given us some powerful tools here. I just tested it out, after having been sent an email from a client complaining that I didn’t answer her question in our private forum… I feel annoyed, overwhelmed, frustrated, unappreciated. Do I want to feel this way? Absolutely not. I want to feel energized, loved, and at peace. What can I do? I can push away from the computer and enjoy some fun time with my adorable 2-year old!
Thanks again 🙂
Miriam Wiener\’s last post… Boost Your Metabolism with SUPERFOODS
Wendi Kelly says
Glad to hear your test went well! And I agree, no better way to feel loved than a big healthy dose of Mommy love! Hope you had an awesome Mommy’s Day!
Lisa Hines says
So inspirational! This is so key (and brilliant I might add):
“This doesn’t mean you have to take ACTION on those feelings, only that you need to be consciously aware of what they are.”
This concept alone has been known to save marriages! LOL. Ask me how I know.
So much of growing and evolving includes mindfulness/awareness. Thank you for reminding us about these important things.
Lisa Hines\’s last post… 4 Blog Tips and Content Marketing
Wendi Kelly says
LOL, Lisa, Ask me how I knew to Write it!!!
Glad you enjoyed it!
Pamela Wills says
Oh Wendi… You found the muse. I love your reminder to find one tiny action step. And you totally made me LOL with that, “of course I don’t, you bone-head!” comment!!! Masterful. Thanks so much for sharing your amazing gifts.
Pamela Wills\’s last post… Speak No Words
Wendi Kelly says
I honestly believe the Teeny-tiny action step is my secret to success and the cure for overwhelm!
Jennifer Bourn says
A lot of people don’t realize they can control how they feel … I didn’t until I was in in my late 20s… I just reacted to events in my life without stopping to think about how I wanted to feel — you can’t always choose what happens to you or what happens around you, but you can choose how you react, how you deal with it, how you feel about it … and what is where the power is!
Jennifer Bourn\’s last post… 7 Ways To Alienate Your Designer & Go From Client to Contract