Some people seem to feel everything very intensely. If they’re sad, they cry big tears, and if they’re happy, their smile is radiant. Do you feel like your emotions pile up inside sometimes, is it hard for you to let them out? This is how you learn to feel.
Emotions allow you to live life to the fullest. If you suppress them, you are selling yourself short, because without ups-and-downs, life is monotonous and dull.
Even if some feelings are scary or painful, they help you to handle adversity. It’s like author Paul Loomans, who wrote a (Dutch) book about emotions, says: ‘Our ratio has a tendency to suppress or avoid unpleasant experiences. But this means keeping yourself from coping with it. The challenge is feeling comfortable with something that’s really unpleasant.’
Just let it enter
Emotions can really surprise you. Someone says something to you, a thought enters your mind, you hear a certain song, and suddenly you’re flooded by sadness, shame, anger or another feeling. The key is to let it all in. Just sit down and let the feelings enter. The more you suppress it, the bigger it becomes – and the bigger the knot in your stomach. If you allow the feeling to just be there, it’ll get easier, it’ll feel less sharp.
Even if you don’t even know what it is you’re feeling, relaxing is helpful. Don’t force yourself to untie a knot, simply find a silent place. It doesn’t matter if you say inside or go outside, and it doesn’t have to take much time. Just try to give in to the moment, preferably once every day. Without other people distracting you, without the phone, Netflix, music. Simply avoiding these distractions can bring some peace.
Use your body
The more you live inside your mind, the more tense you get. If you’re the kind of person who wants to analyse everything and finds it hard to stop thinking, there’s only one thing you can do: focus on your body. Go cycling, running, skating, anything you like: movement helps to get rid of the tension. Psychotherapist Nathaniel Branden, author of ‘Six pillars of self esteem’, wrote: ‘An emotion is both a mental and a physical event.’
Try not to judge
It’s quite difficult to welcome your emotions and not the voices in your mind, who keep yelling their opinions – like sports reporters alongside the game. ‘You’re exaggerating’, ‘Are you still going on about this’, ‘I thought you were over this’ – it may seem like a good idea to be sceptical, but you are actually undermining yourself. Emotions are never ‘just’ or ‘unjust’, they simply are – like the clouds in the sky. You can have opinions about them all you like, but it doesn’t make them go away. It’s better to study them attentively, and try to avoid judgment.
Photo: Naomi August