How Are You?
Hello and welcome to the Lemon Squeezy Wellbeing blog!
I thought it would be appropriate to start my first blog post by asking a question we are all generally asked on a daily basis: how are you?
Only, I’m not going to let you off the hook with an automatic ‘fine thanks’ or a shrug and a ‘not bad’.
I would like to invite you to take a moment to think about how you really are and to engage with the emotional landscape you are living in at the moment. Before you do that though, let’s think about what emotions actually are…
In my work as a psychotherapist I tend to see one of a few things happening when people think or talk about their emotions.
1. People confuse thoughts and emotions
2. People are disconnected from their emotions
3. People feel overwhelmed by their emotions
Confusing Thoughts with Emotions
This is very common and I think this has a lot to do with how we speak with one another in day to day conversation. People tend to say ‘I feel’, rather than saying ‘I think’.
For example, ‘I feel like he was being really rude to me’.
It is great to be able to identify your thoughts but this alone doesn’t necessarily lead us to become aware of our emotions. So, here is how to tell them apart:
- We generally experience our thoughts as being in our head (either as words, images, memories, fantasies, worries, plans, etc.)
- We experience our emotions as a felt sense within our bodies.
- You can generally define an emotion in just one word.
- If it takes a few words it is probably a thought (which may correspond with an emotion
‘He was being really rude to me’ is a thought.
‘Hurt’ is an emotion.
The second difficulty is that people can be disconnected from their emotions.
We may be very busy and push emotions to the side…
We may see some emotions as more acceptable than others and only give certain emotions space to be there…
We may struggle to really define how we feel and lump our experiences under generic terms such as ‘stressed’, or ‘OK’.
If we can’t put words to our emotions it is very easy to become overwhelmed and confused by them, which leads us to the third difficulty: feeling overwhelmed.
When people feel overwhelmed by certain emotions they often have the belief that they can’t cope with strong emotions.
We can end up believing that if we don’t squish them down into some dark little corner of our minds or distract ourselves from them, they will get worse and worse until something really terrible happens.
What most people don’t realise is that all emotions – even the negative ones – take a certain path if we leave them alone.
Generally, an event will trigger a thought, which in turn will trigger an emotion and the experience of this is a sudden rise in the emotion, which can feel overwhelming.
This is generally the point at which we try to get rid of it in some way.
However, if you do nothing to distract or push the emotion away, it will plateaux and gradually diminish.
Don’t believe me?
Think about a time you have felt a positive emotion like happiness or joy. We usually don’t try to get rid of these enjoyable emotions.
- Did it go up and up forever?
- Did you lose control?
- Did it last forever?
All emotions, the enjoyable ones and the uncomfortable ones, are there to help you process your experience.
When we try to push them away, they inevitably come back anyway because your brain wasn’t finished processing the event.
When this happens, we continue to believe we can’t cope with the emotion because we never experience them taking their natural course and wearing off.
This in turn will keep us feeling overwhelmed by them.
There are, however, more helpful ways to regulate strong emotions without pushing them away or avoiding them.
You can make friends with your emotions again.
As a starting point, why not try differentiating between your thoughts and emotions, giving the emotion a name and watching it to see where it goes?
So, how are you?
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