Managing your emotions

Everywhere you look today there are ideas, strategies and lots of workshops about 'managing your emotions'.  I'm a bit perplexed by this.  What does this mean – managing your emotions?  What is at the heart of it?  What are we trying to do?


I am concerned a little by the notion of managing.  I looked 'manage' up in the dictionary to see what it means.  It said: to bring about or succeed in accomplishing something; to take charge or care of; to handle, govern, direct or control something.  Is this what we want to do with our precious emotions?  Are we trying to accomplish something with them?  Do we need to take charge of them? I suspect there's a lot about the value of controlling them in this phrase.  So is this what is most helpful to us as human beings?


So often as a counsellor I get called in to see people who are labelled as 'quite emotional', as if this is the problem and a counsellor needs to solve it.  Oh dear, there's someone who is emotional – quick do something!  Yesterday, I found myself sitting with a married couple, with the wife dying of cancer.  She was very pragmatic about it all and was clearly employing the whole 'management' strategy.  So what was being set up was the managing/controlling strategy was being valued, and the husband who dared to be crying was being undervalued.  He said it all when he looked up at me and said, with tears in his eyes, "I'm just being foolish for crying". 


How is it that we have come to a place and time in our society where it is thought to be foolish, not valuable and problematic to cry because your wife of 40 years is about to die.  As I type this I feel a sense of disbelief and outrage creep up inside my heart and mind.  I feel like screaming out – "no, this can't be".  How have we come to see emotions in such a negative way, to judge them to harshly, and to work our hardest in avoiding, squashing, controlling, and managing them.


Rather than manage emotions, we need to notice them, name them, feel them, accept them, allow them, not judge them as weak, irrational, or foolish.  Our emotions are just as valuable as our thoughts.  They make us human.  For me, emotions are the foundation of who we are.  We wouldn't experience love if we didn't have emotions.  And there are not good ones or bad ones – they are all just emotions.  Our evaluation of them often makes things worse for us.  Of course, we don't wish for our emotions to become 'chronic or habitual' and we don't want them to direct our actions so that we harm ourselves and others as a consequence.  But we need to change our relationship with our emotional self – not to be so fearful of this vital part of who we are.


Researcher now understand that the effort we put into managing or controlling our emotions is often more problematic and draining than the emotion itself.  It will come and go if you allow it and not get mentally caught up in it.


So today take the opportunity to experience an emotion in all of its richness – all of them – not just the one's we understand to be 'pleasant'.  Feel the nature of your sadness – where do you feel it, what type of sensation comes along with it, what space does it put you in, how does it influence you, how long does it stick around for, and how can you make friends with it.


Love and light to you all.



Making friends with your emotional self



As I sat with a client yesterday I could see that her relationship, her way of talking, interacting with her emotional self, was so awful.  If it was a picture, it would two women sitting on the couch – one is crying and curled up, and then this mirror person sitting next to her, chastising her for feeling this way, saying that there is no good reason for it, that if you kept going this way you will loose your life, and generally not accepting this essential part of herself.  It’s almost like the intellectual self is being abusive to the emotional self.


So I came away from that session feeling very odd and displaced.  This woman was experiencing lots of sadness and anger, and frustration too.  Her thinking mind was telling her off, expecting too much of herself, and beating herself up for being this way … still … like somehow she should be ‘over it’ (the pain she was experiencing in her life at that time).


I got to thinking that our relationship with our emotional self is often quite harsh.  We don’t include it as a valuable and special part of who we are.  Or maybe we do if its about pleasant emotions like joy and happiness and love, but when it comes to the so called unpleasant ones it’s like we are saying no way – go away. 


Let’s imagine our emotional self sitting next to us, she looks the same as us, but is a little uncomfortable by the range of emotions occurring, and she’s a bit of a stranger to us, and what we might be doing is relating to her in some of these ways:


go away, I don’t like you


you are not supposed to be here


I am going to push you away and ignore you


there is no reason for you to be here


I am afraid of you


if I bring you into my life, I’m afraid of what it might mean


I can’t find any good reason for you to be here


I am only going to like you if you bring me pleasant emotions


If I embrace you then that must mean that I am not coping, or that I’m weak, or that there is something wrong with me


Because I can’t understand you, I need to control you – this is preferable


Or maybe you might use a voice like a parent or spouse does – You are hopeless, overly emotional, too sensitive (critical voice)



So I want to help people change their relationship with their emotional self – to befriend it, to not fear it, to embrace and allow it, to not get caught up in the interpretive judgments of it, to not try to control it or manage it; and to nurture it.


Of course, I am not saying that all emotions need to be expressed and made room for all of our waking moments, as we do need to function in life, but if we were to take one step closer to befriending our emotional self, what would that step be?


Love and light to you all.