As humans, we all have sensitive bodies. Any nerve or bone goes out of place, we feel pain. When we are attacked by a virus, we feel weak. We lose sensitivity in our tongue and nose if it is flu. If we are insulted by someone, we feel indignant or angry. We want to relieve our feelings by complaining to a friend. We are almost always ruled by feelings in every part of our lives even if we may hold onto the notion that we are rational beings. In fact, our emotions are inaccurate about the future most of the time. For some of us, we might have tried suppressing unpleasant emotions. We may have felt the effects are less than healthy. What can we do then to regulate our emotions so that we do not need to suppress feelings of anger, stress, or unhappiness?
Why Regulate Emotions?
Regulating our emotions is something we do many times without realizing it. We have somehow learned to manage certain emotions by distracting ourselves or telling our problems to a friend. Managing emotions such as anger and anxiety are important for socially accepted behaviors. When we are unable to manage negative emotions, we may act in ways that cause regret later, or suppress them in ways that may cause us mental or health problems.
Difficult Emotions to Manage
Emotions such as impatience, anger, anxiety, and fear can be hard to manage. They can strain relationships by deepening misunderstandings as we may bottle things up. Fear especially can be such paralyzing emotion that it can bring on panic attacks or anxieties impacting the heart. At best, these negative feelings bring about a low sense of well-being. Or worst, they could escalate into personality disorders or clinical depression.
Be Curious About Your Emotions
The first step we can take to normalise our feelings is to be aware and to acknowledge its presence. But it does not mean to act on these negative feelings even if we have a strong impulse to. This is not bottling up the feeling. Most of the time, we do not look at feelings we dislike. We almost immediately put away unpleasant emotions as soon as it pops up. So, instead of bottling it up, ignoring it by distraction is to accept and to look at it with curiosity. What does fear look like? How does the sensations of fear course through your veins? Does the feeling of fear feel cold or hot?
What does anger feel like? Does the heart rate increase? Do you feel your blood pressure rising? Do you feel heat rising to your chest? Is your breath shallow? How does it feel to just watch fear or anger for 5 minutes to fully understand them?
We Don’t Avoid Those We Know
When we see a friend coming by, we say hi to them. We may even offer them a cup of coffee or tea if they are near our home. Emotions are the same. We familiarise ourselves with excitement, fun and pleasure. So when these feelings arise, we want more. We don’t want these pleasant feelings to leave. But when it comes to negative emotions, we send them out of the door without even looking at them. What if we treat both pleasant and unpleasant feelings the same way with an open mind and curiosity?
We Understand Others when We Regulate Our Emotions
When we start to look into our emotions, we begin to understand how others feel. It no longer becomes their anger or my anger. Anger feels the same for everyone. Fear paralyzes the body for everyone. When we make someone angry, we understand fully how they feel. And we cannot expect anyone who has not accepted or opened up to their unpleasant feelings to be able to act rationally.
It takes time to learn to be open to our emotions, especially the ones we dislike. Regulating emotions take time. 8-week mindfulness courses such as MBSAT help participants regulate their emotions by combining mindfulness with positive psychology. The course is also available online. Get in touch with us for more information.