Emotions move and change –
Emotions are a constant continuum of shifts, changes and movement. Hopefully you have found a way to simplify the words you are using at home to identify your feelings. See previous blog…https://powex.co.uk/emotions At a stressful time (COVID 19), stresses and restrictions are causing people’s emotions to be much more unpredictable, in line with the chaos that this virus has caused across the world.
Now, you have your emotional words that you have started to use at home, was this harder than expected? Picking the core words that you want to use. Were some harder to identify than others?
Well, it’s interesting that lots of people can’t actually label the core emotions. Yet, emotions are normal and serve a purpose for everyone. A bit like the fight or flight response, where your body responds normally as a result of fear or anxiety. The ‘innate’ response to a bear in the woods is to either battle the ‘danger’ in front of you or run to keep you safe. When the bear in the woods has gone, you are left with different emotions, so you normally never get stuck in fight or flight. Secondary emotions are always in play, we never fully just experience one emotion. However, this is the complexity of emotion, people mix things up very easily which is why really simplifying to core emotions first is a stepping stone to better self understanding.
The Good, the bad, the ugly of Emotion –
A good emotion, right? You love your friends, family, children, football, shopping? But can you can love too much? If you love drinking alcohol, is this a good thing? You could in fact be drinking too much and causing problems in life silently (or not so silently) elsewhere. You may love your child to the end of the earth. Does this mean that you do not have to think about separation and allowing your child to experience love with other people away from you?
Love is a good emotion to feel, but can lead to negative patterns of behaviour if you are not in touch with it. Love is an incredibly powerful emotion and although society suggests that we ‘all love our mum and dad and children’ for example, many people have difficult relationships with their parents which makes people question – am I bad for not loving my parents (for example)?
Well in my opinion no. You can always have love for someone, but there must be times when you have different feelings towards someone that you love. That is normal, ok and a good thing to teach your tiny humans.
Maybe you agree that even though love is a good emotion, it doesn’t come without drawbacks.
Of course this is easily understandable as a problem. The experience of hate, can be frightening but may not last for long. However, without the experience of hate (even momentarily), you can not appreciate the feelings of love? Hate makes people feel uncomfortable. People don’t like feeling uncomfortable and society for sure doesn’t like seeing discomfort.
So why is hate part of the emotional landscape? To protect people from being hurt, emotionally, physically. Protecting families from the outside world that doesn’t fit with your own world. It enables people to push others away. It gives people a sense that they are ‘right’ in their feelings because they can project their dislike out.
If you, for one moment experience hate – an argument, a disagreement, something you strongly disagree with on social media that makes you rage – it’s ok to feel hate. But to stay in this place would make you a very angry upset person with very little joy. This could easily take you down a path of depression because you are unable to see the positive or the enjoyment in things.
Challenge 1 –
Think about the people you love. Think about situations where you have not felt love for them. Try and label the emotion you felt towards them in different scenarios.
Acknowledge the discomfort.
Feeling emotion is OK and can be uncomfortable. You may not feel comfortable labeling hate because it is a strong word, but it is important to acknowledge that it exists and serves a purpose. Denying you ever feel hate means that you are not experiencing the full range of emotions. Emotions are normal and innate in people’s living experience.
If you hide or squash your uncomfortable emotions, whether love is uncomfortable or hate is for you, it’s likely that you may experience something else in place of that emotion.
The ‘wrong’ emotion.
Don’t misinterpret this – all emotion is ok and ‘right’. However, if you push one emotion out of the way to avoid discomfort or social ‘norms’, you may experience the ‘wrong’ emotion for that situation.
If you push your hate/dislike away – you may not be able to distinguish your own anger bursts that don’t quite ‘fit the facts’. Do you become angry when a certain person that you dislike/hate enters a room? Some people have absolute reason to hate – an abuser, someone who has cause emotional or physical harm to someone. But isn’t anger more acceptable than hate?!
Denying the feeling of dislike/hate doesn’t mean that the replacement anger experience will go away. Finding a way to acknowledge the discomfort of the emotion you try to push away could really change things for you.
Sadness is a really classic mismatch that I see and have experienced myself. Without stopping to think whether my immediate anger response is appropriate, I sometimes miss that I am sad. I have had to teach myself (through therapy and self awareness) to display sadness if that is the right emotion. I have to avoid going straight to anger when in fact I am sad. Showing sadness shows vulnerability. Think from an evolutionary perspective, why would anyone want to show they are sad when it screams ‘you are vulnerable and anyone could take advantage of that’?!
But, we live in a world where vulnerability should be ok, because no tiger is going to eat you. If you can’t pick out your sadness from your anger, you can never really have a clear conversation with the person that makes you angry or sad. Anger normally fuels arguments. Whereas if you were to tell someone they had made you feel sad or let down instead of angry, the type of conversation you can have is very different.
Challenge 2 –
Can you identify family patterns of emotion? What emotions do your family avoid? What emotions maybe come up too much in your family?
Family patterns –
So all of the above, is super complicated. This is because you didn’t learn how to respond to emotion by yourself from a baby? You learned how to identify and respond to emotion through watching and experiencing the people around you.
Your current patterns of behaviour may be replicating your parents patterns of behaviour. Or, you may do the complete opposite because you never liked the way emotion was managed in your life. Everyone’s family story is different, comes with different difficulties, upsets, happy times and sad times. These shape the young people in your life.
It is possible to teach and change family patterns by learning how to identify, label and respond appropriately to the right emotion.
We are kings and queens of masking, looking uniform for society, but our make up of emotion and where we sit on the continuum of understanding our own emotions varies hugely.
You (and I) have learned how to experience emotions through early years, childhood and seeing how others around you experience and respond to their emotions. Family patterns carry on through generations without people realising that their behaviours or emotional landscape is the same as the generation before. You may be able to identify your family patterns which is great, but some people aren’t aware that their behaviours to emotions maybe are the same as their parents?
You can change patterns in your family by trying to make sense of your own emotional landscape.
Start with you first.
Therapy is an incredible place to take questions about your own emotional landscape and talk about family difficulties. However, if you are starting to get more confident with making sense of your own emotions, now might not be the time to tell your whole family about what they can and can not do. People are very sensitive to being told how to do things. So if you are trying to make better sense of your emotions for the sake of you and your immediate family. Get comfortable with this first. I will write something more about how to address difficult conversations in time.