“When it is dark enough, you can see the stars.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
Identify What You’re Really Feeling
So often people feel so overloaded they don’t even know what they’re feeling. All they know is that they’re being “attacked” by all these negative emotions and feelings.
Instead of feeling overloaded, step back for a moment and ask yourself, “What am I really feeling right now?” If you think at first, “I’m feeling angry,” begin to ask yourself, “Am I really feeling angry? Or is it something else? Maybe what I’m really feeling is hurt. Or I feel like I’ve lost out on something.” Realize that a feeling of hurt or a feeling of loss is not as intense as the feeling of anger. Just in taking a moment to identify what you’re really feeling, and beginning to question your emotions, you may be able to lower the emotional intensity you’re experiencing, and therefore deal with the situation much more quickly and easily.
If, for example, you say, “Right now I feel rejected,” you might ask yourself, “Am I feeling rejected, or am I feeling a sense of separation from a person I love? Am I feeling rejected, or am I feeling disappointed? Am I feeling rejected, or am I feeling a little uncomfortable?” Remember the power of words to immediately lower your intensity. Again, as you identify what you’re really feeling, you can lower the intensity even more, which makes it much easier to learn from the emotion.
Acknowledge and Appreciate Your Emotions, Knowing They Support You
You never want to make your emotions wrong. The idea that anything you feel is “wrong” is a great way to destroy honest communication with yourself as well as with others. Be thankful that there’s a part of your brain that is sending you a signal of support, a call to action to make a change in either your perception of some aspect of your life or in your actions. If you’re willing to trust your emotions, knowing that even though you don’t understand them at the moment, each and every one you experience is there to support you in making a positive change, you will immediately stop the war you once had with yourself. Instead, you’ll feel yourself moving toward simple solutions. Making an emotion “wrong” will rarely cause it to become less intense. Whatever you resist tends to persist. Cultivate the feeling of appreciation for all emotions, and like a child that needs attention, you’ll find your emotions “calming down” almost immediately.
Get Curious about the Message This Emotion Is Offering You
Remember the power of changing emotional states? If you put yourself in a state of mind where you truly are feeling curious about learning something, this is an immediate pattern interrupt to any emotion and enables you to learn a great deal about yourself. Getting curious helps you master your emotion, solve the challenge, and prevent the same problem from occurring in the future.
As you begin to feel the emotion, get curious about what it really has to offer you. What do you need to do right now to make things better? If you’re feeling lonely, for example, get curious and ask, “Is it possible that I’m just misinterpreting the situation to mean that I’m alone, when in reality I have all kinds of friends? If I just let them know I want to visit with them, wouldn’t they love to visit with me as well? Is my loneliness giving me a message that I need to take action, reach out more and connect with people?”
Here are four questions to ask yourself to become curious about your emotions:
What do I really want to feel?
What would I have to believe in order to feel the way I’ve been feeling?
What am I willing to do to create a solution and handle this right now?
What can I learn from this?
As you get curious about your emotions, you’ll learn important distinctions about them, not only today, but in the future as well.
Get confident that you can handle this emotion immediately. The quickest, simplest, and most powerful way I know to handle any emotion is to remember a time when you felt a similar emotion and realize that you’ve successfully handled this emotion before. Since you handled it in the past, surely you can handle it again today. The truth is, if you’ve ever had this Action Signal before and gotten through it, you already have a strategy of how to change your emotional states. So stop right now and think about that time when you felt the same emotions and how you dealt with them in a positive way. Use this as the role model or checklist for what you can do right now to change how you feel. What did you do back then? Did you change what you were focusing on, the questions you asked yourself, your perceptions? Or did you take some kind of new action? Decide to do the same right now, with the confidence that it will work just as it did before.
If you’re feeling depressed, for example, and you’ve been able to turn it around before, ask yourself, “What did I do then?” Did you take some new action like going for a run or making some phone calls? Once you’ve made some distinctions about what you’ve done in the past, do the same things now, and you’ll find that you’ll get similar results.
Get Certain You Can Handle This Not Only Today, But in the Future as Well
You want to feel certain that you can handle this emotion easily in the future by having a great plan to do so. One way to do this is to simply remember the ways you’ve handled it in the past, and rehearse handling situations where this Action Signal would come up in the future. See, hear, and feel yourself handling the situation easily. Repetitions of this with emotional intensity will create within you a neural pathway of certainty that you can easily deal with such challenges.
Get Excited, and Take Action
N ow that you’ve finished the first five steps — identified what you were really feeling, appreciated the emotion instead of fighting it, gotten curious about what it really meant and the lesson it was offering you, learned from it, figured out how to turn things around by modeling your successful past strategies for handling the emotion, and rehearsed dealing with it in future situations and installed a sense of certainty — the final step is obvious: Get excited, and take action! Get excited about the fact that you can easily handle this emotion, and take some action right away to prove that you’ve handled it. Don’t stay stuck in the limiting emotions you’re having. Express yourself by using what you rehearsed internally to create a change in your perceptions or your actions. Remember that the new distinctions you’ve just made will change the way you feel not only today, but how you deal with this emotion in the future.
With these six simple steps, you can master virtually any emotion that comes up in your life. If you find yourself dealing with the same emotion again and again, this six-step method will help you identify the pattern and change it in a very short period of time.
So practice using this system. Like anything else that’s brand-new, at first this may seem cumbersome. But the more you do it, the easier it will become to use, and pretty soon you’ll find yourself being able to navigate your way through what you used to think were emotional minefields. What you’ll see instead will be a field of personal coaches guiding you each step of the way, showing you where you need to go to achieve your goals.
Remember, the best time to handle an emotion is when you first begin to feel it. It’s much more difficult to interrupt an emotional pattern once it’s full-blown. My philosophy is, “Kill the monster while it’s little.”