My Emotions Got The Best of Me

Even though I help people identify, regulate and work with their emotions every day, I still get lost in the tangle of my own emotions from time to time. This election season tapped into many intense emotions for me: anger, frustration, fear, panic, and hatred. And I got thrown for a loop. Not to be too hard on myself, after all, my dad just recently died, and I am still grieving the loss of his physical presence in my life. But, nonetheless, I went on a couple of rants about politics.

Thinking that framing things differently would be a better approach.

What I am learning is that while empathy is a skill most everyone possesses, it is a skill that must be practiced and sharpened. When we are honing skills mistakes are likely to happen...and that is where the real learning occurs. At least when we can engage empathically with ourselves!  I hope sharing my mistakes and how I work with them might help you hone your empathy skills as well. 

This feels like a good time to introduce a thread I would like to follow on the blog: how I and others who bring empathy skills and practices to others work to figure our own emotion swells. If there is one thing we all have in common it is emotion. And if you're here reading this, I imagine we have another thing in common: we would like to understand our emotions more deeply and learn how to glean the intelligence they offer before we become unraveled! I was becoming unraveled. Ungrounded. Unfocused. Ignorant.

Anger can be ignorance too.

I read this somewhere and it stopped me dead in my tracks. I had fallen into a pattern of presenting facts around what was happening in our current political situation and I lost sight of how demeaning that can be for people who have a different world view than I do. Even though my intention was not to take sides with the group that holds the same world view as me, I was. I wanted to connect with other who have a different world view than I do. To see where we are the same: family values, creating a meaningful life, having access to financial resources, love of outdoors-clean water, fresh air, rest and rejuvenation. And to dive into ideas that make the world a better place for us to pursue the things that bring meaning to our lives.  All of the criticism of Republicans and Democrats not being able to come together and find solutions must be a shadow of ourselves. Because we aren't doing any better! My shame came forward and nudged me to dive into my practices so I could figure out how I want to move through the current political climate. 

It was time to pause and take a look at my emotional ecosystem.

I enjoy envisioning myself sailing my boat into a bay and setting the anchor. I can see myself doing the work, knowing that this is the last little bit of high intensity work to do for a little while and that rest will come soon. Drop the anchor. Swim out to make sure I have a good bite. Swim back to the boat and rinse off with warm water on the transom. Settle in to nibble on some yummy food, kick back and relax. Surrounded by the sounds of nature and the ocean, swaying back and forth with the flow of the ocean allows me to fully let it all go.  Taking a moment to breath these feelings of relaxation into my body before diving in to investigate my emotional ecosystem gets me relaxed, safe, and comfortable.

I can picture myself diving into the depths of the sea. Swimming and looking at my emotions and the questions that accompany them. I don't get it all in one dive. I've got to swim back to the boat and relax and rejuvenate. 

Who has been hurt? What must be made right?

What must be protected? What must be restored?

What has fallen into my shadow? What must be integrated?

What action really needs to be taken?

Will fighting, fleeing, or freezing benefit me in this situation?

Answering these questions isn't always easy. And I'm not sure I have all the information I need, but I'm definitely better.  It required several dives and several breaks to get some good insight into what is important to me. During this time I committed to myself that I would intentionally pause some of my engagement. Take a break! Understand what is mine and what is not mine. 

I'm back out on my journey headed towards a new destination.  I've let go of the idea that I need to educate people about what is happening in the political realm...I will leave that to the experts! I have some ideas of what is important to me right now, and I have been taking action around those things, in ways that add value and meaning to my life. I've also been able to hear other people's concerns and am learning to ask different questions:

  • What are your best hopes? What difference would that make?
  • How will you know when change has occurred?
  • What indicates that we are on the right track to solve our problems?

Isn't that the point? Finding ways to add value and meaning to our lives is what makes a life well lived in the end, right? What story would I like to tell at my own funeral?

So there you have it! Emotion Swells at work! If you're interested in diving into your own emotional realm just click the button below to discover how you can work with us! 

Andrea Watkins