I don’t know about you but I’ve received a lot of mixed messages about emotions in my lifetime. I grew up in a very emotional family. I saw many different expressions of people’s feelings, some good, some bad and some outright confusing. As I started modeling them out as a young kid, I was often scolded. I would hear things like, “Don’t be so dramatic.” Through time I made meaning of this type of feedback and decided I was simply too much for people to handle. So I tried to be unseen and quiet. It didn’t work.
Back then I didn’t know I was sensitive, either. All I knew was that I felt deeply when I saw an animal hurt and I didn’t like to see people picked on. I could be very tender and helpful to those who were different and not “popular”. If I saw something “unjust” it would break my heart and hurt enough that I would rally to help, even if it meant getting in trouble. And I didn’t consider myself over emotional. I just wanted to help people feel better. And even though I wanted to help ease others’ pain, I still seemed to know what belonged to me and what belonged to them.
I was lucky this way. Even though I was empathic, I seemed to have good enough boundaries when it came to taking care of my needs versus others’ needs. This was good for me, being a sensitive being in the world, yet I was often described as selfish because I wasn’t diving deep into another family member’s problem. Huh? I was confused.
Wait, there’s more. When I started working, especially as an engineer, it got even more confusing. Most often people hired me because of my “passion” and my “energy”. They were excited and I was excited. And then, somewhere about 5-6 months into my job people began to tell me to “settle down” and “stop being so emotional”. Now this was funny because I was no different than I was in the beginning but, alas, being a female engineer on a technical project was often seen as a liability rather than an asset. So I learned to tone it all down and decided to try something different. For about 6 years I approached my career as a man. I figured if I was just “one of the guys,” it would be easier. So I adopted an expressionless, “focused only on work” attitude.
I thought I solved the emotional problem. Uh, no. As you can imagine, much to my surprise again, I was told that it was hard for people to get to know me. I seemed too direct and I wasn’t a very team centric worker. What?!? That was it. It was about 6 years into my career and I had freakin’ HAD IT! “Don’t be so emotional…quit being so selfish.” All the tapes from childhood started playing again.
I won’t bore you with any more of this confusion. Let’s just say it took me a while to learn what emotions were and how to use them. It’s been a life long process but worth it. So when is it a good time to be emotional vs. not? Glad you asked. I have a lot to say about emotions, being sensitive and authentic. It’s all too much to write in one blog post so I think we’ll just focus on emotions today.
So let’s talk about emotions. Should we have them? Yes. In fact we are going to have emotions so we shouldn’t fight them off. We shouldn’t hide them. We shouldn’t stuff them. Our emotions are how we experience our environment. They are the component that make us human. If you can think of emotions as energy to be expressed through you, you won’t feel so bad about having them. So your job is to give the energy within you a way to be expressed through you. And, I can’t say this enough, never stuff them down or lock them away. They make us sick. More and more scientific research is backing this up, too.
Be kind to your physical body, express your emotions, welcome them, and then move back to the present moment. You see emotions are like ocean waves, they come and go. Oh, and emotions feel real and can get too real for people if you let them take over you. So it is your job to give them an easy way to express themselves into the environment, in the most positive expression possible, please.
Looking back on my life now I can see that I might have been too attached to my emotions. I can see how I would swim in anger or happiness and then throw the energy out around me. I can see now how it might have been too much for others to take. So maybe, just maybe what people meant to tell me was “You are getting swept away by your emotions, observe them and come back to us.” Knowing what I know now, that makes a lot of sense. Thank you, peeps of the past.
And this would make sense as an empath and a sensitive being in the world because I am sensitive to others’ emotions and energy, too. These days, I am able to notice the energy (emotion) arising within me and try to express it in loving ways. It doesn’t always go this way, but it is my goal. After all, I’m human and make mistakes. But I like that I can observe them and tend to them in this way. It is a very different way of being in the world and I like it because it means I don’t have to get “lost” in the emotions that come up. And that’s really good news.
My gift to you today is a cheatsheet. It is a short version of what I teach clients about when to dive into emotions and when to observe them.
Collapse into emotion when:
- you are grieving
- in a safe place
- during your healing session (really important not to resist)
Observe your emotion when:
- it doesn’t match your current context
- you are meditating