How to Process an Emotion

We are living in pretty crazy times right now – unprecedented really. 2020 has definitely been a year of the unknown. Many people are struggling with what is happening – and struggling with how they are feeling, and even wondering how they should be feeling.

I’ve heard people talk about being scared, worried, upset, disappointed, anxious. But I also see people feeling calm, comforted, optimistic. 

So – how should you feel? Should you be anxious? Should you be calm? If you are anxious does it mean you are more concerned? If you are calm does it mean you are stronger, and more resilient? Or perhaps it means you are just in denial, aren’t up on all the info or maybe you just simply don’t care? 

I want to offer to you that there is no one way you “should” be feeling. In fact, the way you should be feeling is EXACTLY how you are feeling right now. We are human – and as humans we experience a whole range of emotions. That is what we are meant to do!  And everyone else – they are feeling exactly how they are meant to be feeling!

What’s important to remember though is that all your feelings come from your thoughts…

Life happens  – events happen in the world. Circumstances occur to each of us. But we don’t feel anything about them until we have a thought about them.

Understanding  that our feelings come from our thoughts doesn’t mean though that we will never have negative emotions . Understanding that our feelings come from our thoughts is important so that we can be empowered. 

We get to decide how we feel. And at times, we are going to want to feel sad, angry , frustrated and anxious. We lose a close friend, a family member – we want to mourn. We have to cancel a wedding, a graduation, a trip of a lifetime- it is ok to be disappointed and upset! But we also can allow ourselves to feel optimistic and grateful when a neighbor picks up some groceries for us, when a teacher reaches out to give our child some extra help. All our emotions need to be welcome – especially at a time like this!

We don’t usually have a hard time dealing  with positive emotions   – but  negative emotion are a different story.

Did you know that a feeling is just a vibration that courses through our body? That’s it – a vibration. It can’t harm us! 

The best way to deal with a negative emotion is to PROCESS it. How do you do that? I’m going to give you a few quick steps to use to try to process an emotion the best way you can.Name it: 

1. Name it. Pick the one word that best describes what you think you are feeling.  – e.g. anxiety, worry, shame, sadness, fear, overwhelm, loneliness. When we label something it’s like it is coming out from the dark into the light. And the light is not as scary!

2. Find it in your body. Where is it centered? Where is it centered in your body? Is it our chest? For many, we feel it in our core…? Then describe it… what does it feel like? Is it a tightness? Is it a buzz? A heaviness? A pressure? You can even try to visualize it! What does it look like? Can you think of what colour it is? Does it have a certain shape? Texture (hard, soft, prickly, fast moving, slow moving etc.)?

3. Lastly, you just want to allow it until it subside. What does that mean? It means after you name it , describe it, then relax into it and sit with it and allow it to course through you. It will come and go like waves lapping up on a beach. You will feel it – lean in to it. Then a few minutes later it might come back. So, you do the same process again. Keep going – over and over – be willing to process it as long as it takes (and this is hard!). It loses its power as you keep processing it. 

Does processing make it worse ? Actually, no! You would be surprised!  What makes it worse is resisting an emotion!

The most important thing to remember is that all emotions are completely normal. We need to invite them all in. There is no one way you “should feel”. When you start thinking that way, then you pile on extra negative emotions – you may end up feeling anxious about being anxious, or stressed about being stressed. No need for that. All emotions are normal  – there’s not one way, or the best way to do it. Allow them all.