Do you find yourself pushing emotions down whenever they come up, in fear that they will be too painful? Do you fear what would happen if you actually felt the emotions that arise?
This is a common coping skill that many have adapted to protect themselves. You are not alone. Often times we are okay feeling positive emotions, but just want to numb the negative ones. However, as Brene Brown once said,
“We cannot selectively numb emotions, when we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions.”
You can't numb only the negative emotions and therefore the positive ones become numb as well. This leaves one feeling numb to the world. Maybe this feels okay in the moment, but long term, it starts to take a toll. Mindfulness can be a great way to allow yourself to feel emotion in a safe and controlled environment. The best part of it all, YOU are the one in control of this process.
5 Steps to Mindfulness
1. Acknowledge the feeling that you are having.
Take a moment to first figure out what feeling you are experiencing. Are you sad, anxious, angry, resentful, joyful, excited, optimistic? It doesn't matter what feeling you are having, it can be positive or negative. This step is simply about identifying the emotion.
2. Accept what you are feeling.
After you have acknowledged the felt emotion, give yourself grace. Allow yourself to be okay feeling it. You may need to establish a go-to phrase that encourages you in these moments, such as, "I am going to give myself grace and let myself feel anger", or "It is okay for me to feel resentful right now", or "I am allowed to feel happy". Anger may be a negative emotion that you avoid like the plague. It can feel scary, dangerous, or triggering. However, this emotion can be felt without violent behavior occurring. That is part of simply acknowledging it and being okay with it. You are not giving this emotion the power to take over, but rather you are the one in control. You get to decide how you respond to this emotion.
Maybe you avoid negative emotions out of fear that they will only intensify. That can be scary and can leave you paralyzed. However, avoiding them is doing you no favors - it only fuels your emotions. And irregardless of you pushing them down in the moment, they are still there, you just have taken them out of your present consciousness. But they will be back to visit again.
3. Allow yourself to express this feeling.
Often this is where the fear of anger comes in. People think that if they let the anger come out and be expressed, it will get violent. However, expression does not always have to be through behavior. Expression can be done through many different avenues and in a managed way. Negative emotions can be expressed through crying. writing (journaling, writing a letter, scribbling, drawing), talking to a safe person, exercising, or relaxing. These are just a few examples, but ultimately, you have to determine the route that feels safest for you. Emotions often are not expressed, because there is not a felt sense of safety. Therefore, in this step, it is important to determine what space feels safe, as well as what provides safety about that space. Maybe it is talking to a friend and just having them listen, rather than providing advice. Maybe it is finding a space that you feel comfortable crying your eyes out in. It is important that you determine FOR YOU what feels safe.
You have just taken yourself down a journey that is maybe uncomfortable and new. Appreciate yourself for the experience that you were willing to go down. Acknowledge the strength and vulnerability that it took for you to explore this journey and give yourself a little extra love. This may be you asking for a hug from a friend. Maybe after you express your emotion, you need to re-gather your thoughts alone. Maybe you need to watch your favorite tv show that makes you laugh. Maybe you need to take a good run. It is important that you figure out what refreshes and recharges you. This is not only important for a difficult activity like this, but also just in general!
Self-care is absolutely necessary in order for you to feel your best!
5. You can set a time limit for this activity.
One last suggestion is setting a time limit. It can sometimes feel overwhelming and threatening to let emotions go freely and not have structure around them. When you go from suppressing emotions to letting them flow freely, it can feel like too much. Take baby steps, don't push yourself too hard, and be gentle with yourself. This process can be a lot for some and you don't want to scare yourself out of being open to doing this in the future. You can allow yourself to go through this process for 5 minutes, then come back to it a different day and do another 5 minutes, then maybe the next week, you allow yourself 10 minutes and so on and so forth. Once this process becomes normal for you, it won't take so much thought and it will just happen naturally throughout your day.
How can you implement Mindfulness into your life?
Nurtured Hearts Counseling