To every clinician or person who has ever entered a therapy office, this image (or some version of it) should not be foreign. The “Feelings Wheel” is a tool used in therapy practice that assists people in identifying and naming what emotion they’re currently experiencing.
Typically, if you’re using a tool such as this one you are working on emotional identification and possibly emotional regulation. Both of these goals are important and admirable. Learning to accept your emotions is vital towards the overall goal of growth and progress.
What to do When Emotions are wild…
But what do you do when you experience undesirable emotions in the wild? When, outside the comfort of a therapist’s office, you begin feeling bitter? Or critical? Or empty?
Experiencing emotions that we deem undesirable or negative is bound to happen, and what we do when we experience these emotions shapes our body’s reaction to them. Creating peace inside of yourself includes being able to effectively experience hard time without the need to distract or avoid.
Addressing our feelings in our daily lives is similar to how we address them in our safe spaces. We want to allow ourselves to have the full experience of an emotion without judgement and serve as our own guide through times that cause stress or confusion.
Coping Skills 101
Depending on what style of coping skill best suits your needs, there’s a variety of means for this type of situation.
Remember that there is no such thing as a negative and positive emotion. Emotions are emotions, and while some are more pleasant than others, all are natural and expected in people. There’s no reason to judge yourself or be hard on yourself for having an emotional experience that has been deemed “bad.” By acknowledging a feeling is simply a feeling and holds no good or bad connotation, you’re taking power over this emotion.
Similarly to “negative” emotions being a myth, incorrect emotions are also a mythical creation. Whatever emotional response you have to something is your response. There are incorrect actions or reactions that are connected to emotions, but your emotional response is not incorrect. In times where you’re faced with a heavy emotion, bring your consciousness to how you plan on reacting to this emotion. This is another strategy in which you take back your power- you can control how you behave, even when you can’t control how you feel.
Connect your emotional state to your physical state! There is so much research and data on how your feelings and mental health are connected to your physical health. Take a moment to notice where in your body this emotion is- be as specific as possible and notice your body’s physical reaction to this emotion. Once you’ve located the physical manifestation of the emotion, listen to your body and meet it where it is. This could mean practicing breathing, releasing some physical exertion, or crying. Learning to listen to your body gives you clear direction to what helps in the moment.
When feeling emotional heightened or elevated, we sometimes lose sight of how our words are affecting a situation. Talk to yourself aloud. We, as humans, can hear things differently than when we simply think them. Your ears will pick up if you’re using self-defeating or aggressive words, and your reaction will differ than if those words stayed in your head. This allows you to correct course quicker and shift to effective coping.
A final thought on this matter is that there is no such thing as being “overemotional.” Your emotions are valid and real. Expressing those emotions and exerperiencing them is healthy, and at no point can you “overexpress” yourself. Learning to navigate your emotions takes time and expressing them is crucial. Give yourself permission to fully acknowledge your emotions without fear.
This is not a finite list of ways to address this; however, these are some fundamental tasks that can help with the process.
If you’re feeling, then you’re healing and growing.