Are your emotions running your life? Does worry keep you up at night? Do you ever say to yourself, "Why am I so emotional?" Or does your partner say to you, "Stop being so emotional!" or "Why do you have to be so sensitive?"
All of these described me years ago. I had little to no control of my emotions and the slightest provocation incited tears. I even remember my now-grown son teasing me because I cried at Bambi. Every day, a haunting doubt kept eating at me: "Is there something wrong with me?"
When your feelings are fluctuating erratically, hormones could be an issue, but often if you're overly emotional, it's a good sign that emotional regulation is lacking. Being overly sensitive can be an indicator of unresolved pain and unprocessed emotions, both of which I had in truckloads when I was a young mother.
To transform our emotional life in positive ways and gracefully surf our emotional waves, we must begin by acknowledging and listening to our emotions instead of denying their voice in our life. The more we try to stop ourselves from feeling, the more they persist, build, and squeeze out sideways.
You've probably heard of emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence skills are critical and can be learned. I built inner peace and emotional well-being from scratch—and so can you!
The Importance of Listening to Our Emotions
Most of us have learned to push feelings aside as troublesome or annoying little nuisances that are in the way of happiness and success. We’ve been taught that emotions show weakness, or that emotions interfere with good decision-making, or that we just need to buck up, push through, and get things done… or some other variation. However, when we don’t accept our emotions, we cannot capitalize on their enormous wisdom. Wisdom? Yes, wisdom. Emotions can be your own personal GPS if you befriend them and begin to train them like a Tai Chi master teaches the moves of a dance. One step at a time; one move at a time.
Learning how to manage emotions and self-regulate is critical on the path of becoming our true self and finding a sense of well-being. One of the most liberating experiences is having a clear head, a happy heart, a meaningful life, and thriving relationships—all at the same time. A lot of people think this is impossible. And few know how to achieve a consistent experience filled with inner peace and ease. Yet, once you connect with this unlimited wellspring of emotional wisdom, it's a game-changer. The wellspring of wisdom that comes from emotions is tremendous leverage if we know how to use it.
Gaining Self-Awareness and Emotional Literacy
The first step in making a change or learning any new skill is self-awareness. How can we change what we are not aware of? So let's start at the beginning.
What are emotions?
Emotions are energy moving through us. They help us interpret our experience and are a guidance system that leads us to the right action.
Each emotion has varying degrees of intensity to signal us what we need, how urgent the need for action is, and then to lead us back to our True North. Emotions are our own personal guidance system (GPS).
When we are overwhelmed with emotions, it often points to an accumulation of unfelt feelings that have been repressed or conflicting emotions clashing together, many times contradictory. So, if you have a backlog of pain and stuffed feelings, it's important to get support and help, either from an experienced emotional fitness coach or a therapist. Yet, you can be your own inner life coach, too.
You can learn about emotions by observing yourself and giving yourself permission to feel. A big step toward regaining serenity.
What Is Self-Observation?
Self-observation is the practice
of observing ourselves with neutrality.
Awareness grows when we practice observing what goes on inside of us with self-compassion. Before we can get acquainted with our emotions, it's wise to know how to observe ourselves objectively, so we don't get engulfed in, overtaken by strong emotions, or triggered in an unhealthy way. The Inner Observer strengthens our loving detachment and helps us gently explore our feelings. The Inner Observer will greatly assist you in self-modulation and self-calming.
Our Inner Observer is the nonjudgmental part of ourselves that allows us to witness our thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations without having to act on our impulses. When we observe ourselves, we contact a part of ourselves that is neutral. Observing is like looking through the lens of a camera; the lens watches without interpretation, storytelling, or judgment. No opinions, no shoulds or should-nots; no have to's, no to-dos.
"When we practice self-observation—noticing what we are thinking, feeling, doing, and imagining—it allows us to become self-aware. When we are aware of what we are doing, we realize that we have choices and choices are what make us powerful. The very act of noticing how we are feeling can allow us to release or let go of a stuck or stagnant feeling..." ~Eve Hogan
Observe your inner world for a few weeks without judgment, only curiosity. Easier said than done, right?
This activity may seem very difficult at first. You might not even be able to find that place of quiet. When I first attempted, I had a ton of negative self-talk and incessant critical chatter. If someone had asked me to observe myself without judgment, I would NOT have thought it was possible. Until I started and practiced... until I could.
Just begin. Don't try to change anything. Simply notice.
Take note when you are in your zone and feeling lighthearted and happy. Notice when you feel static inside, subtle—or not so subtle. Observe the gazillion thoughts that try to vie for your attention. If your self-talk is harsh and you hear snide put-downs, just say, "That's interesting" or "Thanks for sharing" or some other neutral comment. Then, return to observing. Practice until you get the hang of it.
Self-Acceptance: Give Yourself Permission to Feel
The next step to utilize the sage advice of your emotions is to give yourself permission to feel. This step may seem silly or unnecessary, but most of us have been shamed or wronged for what we have felt, so it is a vital step.
Once you give yourself permission to feel, notice all the reasons your mind tells you why that's not a good idea: you can't handle them, it's not safe, you'll upset others, etc. Continue to respond with kind firmness: "Thank you for sharing." And repeat, "I give myself permission to feel."
You might be surprised at how many times you brush your emotions aside, minimize what you're feeling, or stuff them altogether. Only observe and allow. Every time you catch yourself blocking your feelings, open to them. If you judge yourself, release, and return to observation.
Author Marc Brackett, Ph.D., writes in his book "Permission to Feel":
"When we ignore our feelings, or suppress them, they only become stronger. The really powerful emotions build up inside us, like a dark force that inevitably poisons everything we do, whether we like it or not. Hurt feelings don't vanish on their own. They don't heal themselves. If we don't express our emotions, they pile up like a debt that will eventually come due."
Observe. Give yourself permission to feel. Get curious.
Related reading: "6 Steps to Emotional Mastery"
Emotional Awareness: Label Your Feeling
Now, it's time to be a detective, an "emotion master," as the Yale Center coined for those learning the skills needed for emotional well-being.
Notice your emotions and those of others. Observe how you feel and label the feeling. If you feel sad, acknowledge your sadness. If you're excited, revel in your enthusiasm. If you're a little anxious, name it.
By paying attention to what we feel, we are acknowledging our right to feel. And we are gathering vital clues. Once we start listening, we begin to sense and know what actions lead us to our best self. Our feelings alert us to when we don't feel safe, and we need to take care of ourselves or when we are going against our truth. We recognize when we need to self-calm or set a boundary for someone's behavior. We start paying attention to what brings us joy and leads us to fulfillment. Each acknowledgment leads us closer to inner peace.
For a comprehensive understanding of emotions and their purpose, check out our free webinar, “How to Use Your Emotions to Make Life-Transforming Change.”
Pay Attention to the GPS of Your Emotions
Your emotions are important. Pay attention to them and to what they’re trying to tell you. Feel, listen, and act. Then you’ll learn how to follow their wisdom and you'll begin to achieve a life you love. You'll grow more each day in self-awareness and emotional mastery. And that's a game-changer!
If you want to dive deep and increase your emotional intelligence, check out our emotional fitness online course. It's downloadable and gives you the tools you need for greater mastery!
For emotional fitness coaching and an expert guide to support and empower you to create a life you love, contact Heartmanity.