Ah, emotions. They allow us to experience the most magical moments of our human experience, yet bring us immense pain and suffering at times. They tease us with their ephemeral, uncontrollable, and unpredictable nature. Give me more . . . make it stop . . . more . . . stop . . . more . . . stop . . . sigh.
Some of us pride ourselves on being “emotional junkies” who live off the thrill of experiencing new or pleasure-inducing emotions. While riding the peak of each emotional wave is gratifying, it is followed by a trough that, while seemingly disappointing, is essential to counterbalance and fully appreciate the highs.
A small minority of people suffer from an over-abundance of happiness and seek help to become less happy. On the other hand, an overwhelming majority of people struggle with tidal waves of less-than-pleasant emotions.
Addressing negative emotions is difficult, especially when you receive a frustrating e-mail at work or when you unexpectedly run into your ex and their new love-interest on the street. What can a simple human do in the face of such great forces?
While I originally wrote this article in response to my article on fear, this method is not limited to fear and can be applied to any overwhelming emotion such as anger, frustration, jealousy, resentment, embarrassment, sorrow, etc.
Step 1 — Acknowledge
When faced with gripping fear, do not ignore it. Take a deep breath, then say hello.
Suppressing or ignoring emotions is like holding an inflatable ball under water. The greater the emotional ball, the harder it is to suppress. Eventually your arm, your mind, your body, and your soul will tire. Would you rather wait until you are already beaten down and tired to address the emotion or face it before it becomes a burden?
Remember that by acknowledging it, you are neither pushing it away nor pulling it towards you. Remain in a force-neutral mental state of radical acceptance.
TELL YOURSELF: Hi Fear! I see you.
Step 2 — Separate
After you have acknowledged that you are experiencing a particular emotion, embrace its presence as an entity separate from yourself.
You are not your emotions. You are a timeless and expansive being, living an ephemeral human life, experiencing an even more temporary emotional state. This emotional state is like a cloud passing overhead. While the cloud hovers above, you might feel pressure or darkness. In time, it will pass, and you will be free of its shadow.
TELL YOURSELF: I am experiencing fear, but I am not my fear. You have no control over me. You will pass, and I will still be here.
Step 3— Channel Your Wisest Self
Check-in with yourself to remember who you truly are; not who you want to be, but who you are when you are free of pressure and anxiety, both internally and externally created.
If you struggle to find this part of yourself, think back to a time when you were truly happy. What were you experiencing that allowed you to be authentically happy? How can you channel that same emotion in this moment?
During this step, you may utilize any means that work for you: meditation, yoga, running, breath exercises, writing, etc.
ASK YOURSELF: Who am I when I am at my best? How do I show up to the world? How would my Wisest Self act right now?
Step 4— Be Curious
Root yourself in the present moment and start asking questions.
Strong emotions are a gift from your subconscious. It is a way of letting you know that something is out of alignment in your way of being. Take the time to explore the gift and you will find a treasure of transformation and growth within.
ASK YOURSELF: What am I experiencing? Why am I experiencing this emotion? What does my body want for me? What does my mind have to say? What is my subconscious trying to tell me? Where/when else has this emotion shown itself before?
For a quick summary, checkout this video on the Ego and how it reveals itself through the emotions we experience.
Now it’s your turn! When was the last time you were overwhelmed by a negative emotion? Knowing what you know now, what would you have done differently?
Songya is a Leadership Consultant & Coach, based in Berlin who works with leaders to become the best version of themselves. She has an engineering MS & BS from Stanford and an MBA from Cambridge Judge. Get to know her better through her newsletter, where she shares learnings, inspiration, and meditations that address the myriad of troubles plaguing young business leaders today.