When I wake up and look out the window, I notice storm clouds. I feel my throat tighten and my face get hot, and think, “I don’t deserve a rainy day!” I feel foolish for harboring anger towards the impervious sky. I try to deny the irrational feeling, swallowing hard as my muscles tighten. Silently I stomp to breakfast.
If you avoid a negative emotion, it will fester and wreak havoc on your body, emotions, relationships, and performance.
Ever had a moment like this, where you fight hard against an unwanted feeling only to notice it resurfacing? Feelings are similar to weather fronts; there’s no wishing them away, and they eventually must pass through before dissipating. If a feeling like anger, sadness, or jealousy is suppressed, it goes underground, puts pressure on you, and stirs up trouble in your world. If you’re angry, you might act taciturn or rude, feel tightness or heat in your body, and have thoughts about injustice and indignation.
How can you move through – and past – negative emotions more quickly?
Unleash your inner creative optimist – the theme of this month’s blog series – by (drumroll, please) doing nothing. Yes, you read that right. An optimist believes that she or he can influence the future. In order to do that, you must first face your experience of the present moment. Acknowledging rather than resisting reality will enable you to respond rather than react.
Here’s how to turn toward and transform tough feelings:
- Stop. Slow down. If you’re moving, be still. If you’re interacting with someone, politely excuse yourself. Even if you can’t stop what you’re doing, at least take a few deep breaths. Focus on lengthening the exhale.
- Look. Notice what’s happening in your body. Label physical sensations, like “hot face,” and “shallow breathing.”
- Listen. Remind yourself that your body is trying to cue you about how to process the experience. Instead of resisting this help, try welcoming it by saying to yourself, “Thank you for trying to help me through this.” To further hone your listening skills, check out this blog series.
- Respond (maybe). Ask what your body is trying to tell you with these reactions. If you can simply stay with the feeling until it passes, do that. You were born resilient, so let your inherent strength be your first line of defense. Oftentimes, we just need to let ourselves feel an experience fully and then it will end on its own. Letting the anger (or any other emotion) exist may be enough to help it evaporate.
You are a natural artistic optimist, born to live in reality and to affect your future. When you encounter an emotional storm cloud, practice Stop-Look-Listen-Respond to tap into your innate resilience. Look out for more blogs this month for tips and tools to strengthen your optimistic genius!