The valuable language of tough emotions
When I think of mental health, I think of things at the level of the mind. Things like thoughts, beliefs and perceptions.
But for me, and I believe for most people, it’s not what I am thinking that hurts, it’s how I am feeling that I can’t handle. It’s my emotional health that needs often attention.
I’ve experienced quite a lot of grief this year and last year and the one before that. It changed me. I was a happier more carefree kind of person before the disappointments of life became too much.
In the past I thought I had to “manage” my emotions and when strong emotions arose I “put my game face back on and got back to work”.
At the same time, I battled with dark thoughts and a constant anxiety that woke me in the middle of the night. I spoke to others, sought help, but deep down my greatest fear was me not knowing how to deal with how out of control I felt on the inside. And I sure didn’t want others to know.
It made sense to keep things quiet, why would I want anyone else to know about something in me, that I had no real understanding about? It’s was too much vulnerability.
When this round of grief came, I decide to sit in it, no matter how long it took to go through it. I treated my emotional pain the same as I would a broken leg that would keep me bedridden, except it was a broken heart I needed to mend and that kept me in my home.
Every day was tough, the tears were like waterfalls as I allowed myself to sob for hours. Deep guttural noises were released, as I felt the depth of the emotions I was carrying.
When I didn’t want to feel that much pain, I would get angry and critical of everything or I would become intolerant and enter into obsessive cleaning. On other days I let myself rest, ate ice cream and stared out of the window for hours.
I was unaware of the size of the burden I’d been carrying beneath the veneer of my game face.
Feelings hold valuable information
What I learned about myself, as I looked within, is that my emotional self was an integral part of me being centered and whole. I knew about the other 3 wheels of my “lifecar” – my physical body, my mental health and my spiritual faith.
But the part I’d managed to ignore up until then and that was keeping me travelling around in circles, was my feelings.
I have come to understand that emotions are a language. They have meanings and they exist to help navigate our experiences in the world.
There are literally hundreds of words to describe emotions. For most of us, our emotional vocabulary and emotional comprehension is limited to happy, sad, angry, calm, fear, love.
Over this year I have learned that by listening to my emotions, I could gain a deeper self-understanding. My painful emotions were shouting at me about changes that I needed to make, and my high vibe emotions were pointing me towards my passions.
My anger was teaching me about where boundaries were. I saw how I experienced love when I was around beauty. Guilt and shame were showing me that I was out of integrity with myself. When I felt panic, I was really relieving a past unresolved trauma and grief was a deep, deep connection with my soul.
As I got to know my emotional language, I started to make some changes in my life. I used my anger to define my boundaries with my work, with others and with myself. I gave up the cheeky 3rd glass of wine when I realized my hangovers were anger bombs directed at myself for not caring for my physical body.
Emotions have a bad name
Emotions are not indictors of an irrational mind or an unreliable person. They are a sign that something inside needs understanding and expression. They are often a call for healing.
When we tell someone to ignore or suppress their emotions, we are doing them a great disservice.
For some, too much suppression causes them to lash out in an effort to relieve pain. For others suppressed emotional pain is creates deep mental anguish and self-destructive behaviors.
On the other hand, expressing emotions like sadness can be a source of release and rejuvenation. Or expressing gratitude can create more feelings of contentment and accomplishment.
Understanding our emotions helps us to acheive our life goals
My goal for this life is to live it well. I expect it is everyone’s goal. But living well won’t ever mean living without difficult, painful life experiences. It can’t. We need sadness to know happiness and we need to know anger to know peace.
Luckily, we haven’t shown up in this life without any directions. Emotions are your own language and map. Where I experience joy from harmony, you may find joy in exhilaration or forming a loving connection with another. Our emotional languages show the way to our happiest, most wonderful life experience and release us from the pains that hold us back.