Today we continue our series on the path to emotional well-being with our third step - learning to manage our emotions.
I didn’t cry. It was a rule and I kept it. Crying was for wimpy women who were desperate and needy not for strong, independent women like me. At least this is what I told myself.
The reality was my emotions were stuffed so deep inside, I was completely out of touch with myself. All this changed as one millennium passed to another. In August 2000 I lost a stone out of my wedding ring. My modern design was such that I could not wear either my wedding band or my engagement ring.
My marriage was distant and somehow the loss of this symbol took on gargantuan significance for me. I found my voice and asked my husband to get my ring repaired. As Christmas approached I was certain what I’d find under the tree. I unwrapped several thoughtful gifts but no ring.
I didn’t worry too much though. I simply again expressed my need and waited for the Valentine’s present I knew would come. February brought another round of considerate items but no ring. The foundation of my emotions broke like the dam of a river at flood stage. My emotions came rushing out in a tangled mess of hysteria.
Unleashed, I couldn’t rebuild my dam. I cried at movies, at the slightest insult and I felt everything. I felt too deeply.
Neither of those extremes leads to emotional well-being. As I journeyed toward emotional health, I learned to manage my emotions. To do so I follow the Acknowledge, Analyze, Express cycle. I equate this to having company over for dinner.
Acknowledge – Today allow myself to feel a full spectrum of emotions. When one comes, I first take a moment to mentally acknowledge its presence. This is the point in your dinner party when you greet your guest at the door. Anger, apathy or elation has rung the doorbell of your heart but to actually greet our guest we have to move from the heart of our home to the door of our intellect. Welcome the emotion by opening the door.
Analyze – After acknowledging its presence, I give my emotion a name. This requires engaging both my heart and my mind. I think about what I’m feeling and address it by name. When guests come for dinner, it would be totally rude to leave them on the doorstep. You must invite them in, greet them and make them feel comfortable. You ask them questions to further the relationship. In this step, we do the same with feelings, we invite them in and get to know them until we know who and what they are.
Express – Once I know what my emotion is I choose a response. Whether my emotion is the gateway to a deeper problem or an indicator of long-term unaddressed issue, I choose how to respond. Do I need to verbally express my thoughts to someone? Do I need to pray? I choose my response. Every good dinner party ends in dessert. You eventually move to the door and choose. Will you have a future gathering? Will you pursue deeper relationship or move on? Do the same with your emotion. Choose the future your emotions will take.
I manage my emotions so they don’t manage me. Yes I still cry at movies. I even get unnecessarily huffy with my hubby from time to time but rather than swinging on the pendulum on my emotions, I let them guide me to the path of emotional well-being.
Do you ride on the tide of your emotions? What would happen if you managed them instead?