Feelings Are Not Meant to Define You
By Brent Flory
Each of us have been through a painful situation where we have heard a sentence that takes our breath away. A moment that emotionally tore you apart.
“I think we should stop seeing each other.”
“I’m leaving you.”
“Why are you so stupid?”
It took me about thirty years to admit that I’m an emotional guy. I’ve had to work hard to learn how to deal with my feelings well, and that is an ongoing process for me. Especially as a person who likes to take risks, I have to keep a grip on my emotional life or I can get overwhelmed quickly.
Hopefully you do well handling stressful circumstances and the emotions that arise during them. However, you may battle to not let your feelings get the best of you. No person is fully in one camp or the other, we each fall somewhere on a spectrum in how skillfully we handle our emotions. And if you’re like my toddler, where you fall on that spectrum may vary significantly depending upon when you last ate something.
To become a person who processes their emotions effectively, you must know that you are much more than your feelings. You can learn to gain mastery over them.
3 Tactics to Dealing with Feelings More Effectively
1. Learn to pause when something triggers you emotionally.
When something hits us deeply on an emotional level, we can react immediately without thinking through the possible consequences. Training yourself to pause creates space to consider your options when you’re in an emotionally difficult scenario.
If your significant other hurts your feelings and you pause before responding, you have the opportunity to choose to relate to them in a way that won’t make the situation worse. You can ask them to clarify what they said, share your interpretation of what they told you, or say that you need to go on a walk before you talk further.
Creating space to process your options instead of responding out of sheer emotion can make a world of difference in your relationships.
2) Identify the emotion you’re feeling.
There is a tremendous difference between being overcome by anxiety and being able to say, “I’m feeling anxious right now.” If you can accurately pinpoint what feeling you are experiencing, you now have a choice in where you go from here. When you understand what is happening inside of you, you have the power to make a decision that can lead to a better outcome than allowing yourself to be driven by your emotions.
3. Question your interpretation of situations.
When your boss says, “great job on the project,” you can beam with pleasure at her assessment of your performance. Or you can burn with anger at her insult. It’s all in how you choose to interpret what she says.
Your beliefs about yourself and your boss will shape how you think about what she says to you, and how you choose to reply to her. Our interpretations can be inaccurate, and can lead to gross misunderstandings in our relationships. Stopping to question your interpretation of an interaction can lead to a very different result than automatically trusting your initial take on it.
Everyone can get better at handling their feelings with some work. Learning to pause, identifying your emotions, and questioning your initial interpretation of situations will grow your ability to effectively process your feelings. These are skills that will pay you dividends in every area of life, so start working on them today.