9 Emotions. What they mean. And what to do about it.
This is Part III of working with negative emotions or strong emotional messages.
Emotions can have us all over the place. Up, down, happy, sad, angry, peaceful.
A literal emotional rollercoaster.
While there are thousands of words to describe all of the emotions we can experience, a lot of times it boils down to 5-10 basic emotions.
The list below is not comprehensive, but it covers 9 frequent emotions we experience, the message the emotion may be saying to us, and some recommended actions to take.
Let's get started:
All of us are familiar with fear. There's so many things to be scared of today, job loss, viruses, economic issues, elections, and more.
The message fear is trying to send us is that we need to prepare for something. Maybe you have a presentation coming up, maybe you need toilet paper (you probably have enough), maybe you need to clean the house.
Instead of becoming fearful, we simply need to take action.
Since the message is to prepare, go ahead and prepare. Create the presentation, buy that toilet paper (only if you need it), clean the house. Start now. Not in 10 minutes, not in 10 seconds, now. You can do this.
Once you've started taking action, you'll have the momentum you need to get things done.
Now that you've got things done, rest in the affirmation, "I'm ready."
When things don't go our way or someone attacks us, we tend to feel hurt.
Hurt is trying to let us know that one of our expectations has not been met. I got a bad haircut, my order was wrong, there's too much traffic, I didn't get the promotion, my spouse didn't kiss me goodbye. Whatever it is, an expectation simply wasn't met.
It hurts, and it's disappointing. The hard thing is, the past is the past. And that unmet expectation is already in the past. What we need to ask ourselves is, "What do I want to do now?"
Answer that question as honestly and as in line with your values as you can.
Change your communication, make your wants and needs known in a way that people can better understand.
Ask for help with your wants and needs.
And finally, you may need to try and meet someone else's needs better or more effectively.
Take the time to reflect. You're worth it.
Anger is ok. It's simply another emotional signal trying to tell you something. What's important is what we do with our anger.
Anger is letting us know that one of our major "rules" have been violated. These core principles or worldview that we have has been confronted or challenged with something that doesn't fit. Someone may have violated one of these rules or you may have actually violated your own rules.
You may have a rule that "people should not cut me off in traffic." While that is a beautiful hope to have, it's not reality. Someone is going to cut you off, either on purpose or accidentally. You may want to shift rules like this into a hope. Expecting reality to be different than it is creates a lot of suffering.
If you've violated your own rule, give yourself some grace and forgiveness and get back on track. Get back to living a life according to what you believe and what you want to be doing.
Frustration is a daily, if not hourly occurrence. Things are not going how we wanted them to, and it sucks.
Frustration is trying to tell us that was we are doing simply isn't working.
No problem. There's never just one way to get a job done. It's time for us to try something different. It's reported that it took Edison something like 10,000 attempts to create the light bulb. 10,000! Can you imagine if he quit at attempt 9,999?!
Reflect on your behavior. Reflect on the outcomes. Adjust. Make the necessary changes. Go play. Get creative. Do something different.
Disappointment has some similarities with hurt and frustration.
Disappointment is communicating to us that something we expected to happen is not going to happen.
Expectations can choke the life out of us. I'm not saying to have no expectations. Instead, we want to try to operate like Carrie Campbell states, "Expect everything and attach to nothing." We prepare and do our best and then let go of the outcome.
When you're disappointed, focus on what you want now, not what you wanted then. Then take massive action to make it happen.
Guilt is a big one. We beat ourselves up with the "shoulds, woulds, and coulds." We say to ourselves, "I should have done this," or "I could have done that."
Guilt is telling us that we have violated one of our own standards. Guilt wants to be certain that we won't do this particular action again.
We have to be honest with ourselves here. We need to get clear that we broke our own rules, and we need to take action to make sure that we don't break that rule again.
Easier said than done, but it's important that we try. Reflect on what behavior you want to change and create a new system to try to reinforce the way you want to act. It's also possible that your standards may be unreasonable.
"I should only have 3% body fat." While that is definitely possible, the diet, exercise, and sacrifice it takes to get to 3% body may be unrealistic given all the other things going on in your life.
Be honest and gentle with yourself.
7. Overwhelmed, helpless, depressed
These three have so much overlap, we'll just go ahead and keep them together.
Life doesn't stop. It seems like we are being bombarded from all sides, and it can make us feel overwhelmed, helpless, and even depressed.
The message these emotions are trying to tell us is that we need to come back to the present moment. We're not even talking this week, this day, this hour; we're talking about this very second.
When working with these emotions, you want to start right were you are. Ask yourself the question, "What can I do right away to start feeling better?" Make a list based on your answers, reprioritize your day, and go do the first one on your list.
Do that one thing well. Pour yourself completely into it, and then let that accomplishment snowball into further and further action.
Now more than ever, feeling lonely is rampant. COVID is separating us even more. We are so specialized, so distinct, and so separate that we have forgotten how to connect, how to be a community, a tribe.
Loneliness wants us to realize that we need to connect with people. Even the most introverted of us needs connection. We want and need to feel like we belong.
This is a difficult emotion to take action on.
The bad news is that it requires work, bravery, and courage. When you're feeling lonely and disconnected, you gotta get out there and connect. You can't wait around for others to reach out in times like this. You have to be the one that initiates. You have to be the one that goes out and loves first.
The good news is that you got all the bravery and courage you need. Your real friends and family love you. Your tribe is waiting for you to call them, to text them, to reach out. So reach out.
In this world of chasing perfectionism, we often feel we are inadequate or not enough. We strive for more and more and more, and the mind tells us that if just this one more thing happens, you'll be happy. Yet, you get that "one more thing" over and over again, and it gets replaced with the next "one more thing." And you still don't feel enough.
Inadequate or not feeling good enough is trying to communicate to you that you need to change your standards, let go of the outcomes, and attach to the process.
Look at where you don't feel enough and remind yourself, "My worth is not dependent upon my performance or my clothes or my wealth or anything else that is outside of me. I am enough now, as is, no exceptions."
If you notice that you want to improve an area of your life, do it. Don't judge yourself or worry. Come back to the present, get committed, and master this area of your life. No one ever simply arrived. They worked and worked and worked until they accomplished what they wanted. Think of Edison again. You're worth 10,000 attempts. You're worth 10,000,000 attempts.
You're worthy and you're worth it.
I help with strong emotional messages.