Listening to my emotions changed my life!
I remember being curled up (basically in the foetal position) on the floor of a motel bathroom absolutely sobbing my eyes out – that full blown, uncontrollable, ugly AF cry……. and not understanding why. Life was good, I was happy, I was surrounded by friends and family who cared about me and who I loved – my life was good, even great by all ‘normal’ measures of life greatness. When my friend found me in this glamourous state and understandably wanted to know what was wrong (aka had someone died!?!?), I wasn’t able to give her anything. I barely knew what had set me off, but I knew that my response to it was drastically disproportionate. And for that, I felt silly and embarrassed.
A couple of years passed me by and I didn’t give this memory much attention until I started to really dive into my personal development journey. Even then, it wasn’t that I went in search of an answer for what I had experienced that day, it was actually the reverse. I began to learn about the power of language, both positive and negative, which lead into the inevitable field of emotions (after all emotions really are just physiological states we use a word to describe) and what I learned just clicked!
So bear with me as I explain this…… trust me it’s worth the time it will take you to read!!
The English language has more words to it than any other language…. In fact, the language with the second most has less than half!!! Despite having over 200,000 words available to us, we only use around 20,000 with any regularity. The point I’m wanting to make is that we have a relatively small habitual language; basically we are lazy and use the same words over and over. Now this makes sense, it saves energy because we just speak, rather than stopping to consider every single word that leaves our mouths. The reason I bring this up though is to highlight that, like any habit, we might benefit from bringing our choice of words back into our consciousness…… giving some consideration to how our habitual language is (or is not) serving us.
I know that if I say “I hate XYZ” I am going to have a very different experience than if I say something slightly different like “I really dislike XYZ”. I also know that there are twice as many words for negative emotions than there are to describe positive emotions within the English language; which means statistically speaking, it’s easier to find a negative descriptor than a positive one.
In a nut shell – let’s stop being lazy with our words! Rather than defaulting to our habitual language patters, stop and take a moment to choose the best word for how your feel, maybe even choosing the word for how you want to feel, and find a word that appropriately describes that. You know what, you might still choose to say you ‘hate’ sometimes or that you’re ‘really pissed off’ and that’s totally ok, the point is to consciously choose how you’re describing your experience and to own that choice.
Wondering what the relevance to my motel bathroom meltdown is? What I learned was that I had not been even able to identify my emotions….. Therefore I had not addressed them, or even given them appropriate labels. I had a limited set of emotions that I thought should look or feel a particular way, but I had never really stopped to listen to them.
The beautiful thing is, emotions are our bodies’ mechanism for letting us know we need to take action – like a warning sign – and when we learn to identify, respect, understand, and take action based on those signs, it is truly life changing. The first time we feel an emotional response to something it’s a little bit like a feather brushing over you…. However, if we don’t take action on that first encounter then eventually it’s going to feel more like brick as the intensity builds with each subsequent experience….. then if yet again, we still choose not to take action BOOM! It’s like being hit by a bloody truck.
That day in the motel – I was run over by the emotions truck!
Something was happening in my life that didn’t feel aligned, and I knew it didn’t feel good but I choose not to address it each time it came up (pretty sure I was given plenty of feathers and then a fair number of bricks) and so out of what seemed like nowhere I was completely blind-sided by a truck.
If only I’d noticed the feather and taken action early on.
By no stretch am I claiming or thinking that I have it all sorted out; what I do have though is an awareness and an understanding…. If I ignore a feather nowadays I am doing so knowing full well that it may someday turn into a truck. Along the way I have learned that the discomfort of addressing something while it is still a feather passes (face the fear and do it anyway, right!?!) and even more importantly I prefer that form of discomfort over the 18 wheeler emotions truck further down the line!
How do you learn to listen to your emotions? Slow down. Make sure you insert a pause between something happening and reacting…… that makes it a response and it keeps you in the driver’s seat of your own experiences. Be patient with yourself, time and practice are your friends. Recognise and accept that emotions are healthy and sometimes just sitting with them for a bit is the way to ease them. Acknowledge that you’re a unique individual and your experiences are yours to live, therefore never compare yourself to another – the answers you need are already within you, you just need to take the time to find them.
Segway time – if you haven’t already, you gotta see the movie Inside Out! Sure it’s a kid’s movie….. it is also, hands down the best depiction of how our emotions work, for us, against us, and together! It’s not on Netflix yet so you’ll need to go old school and get the DVD and some popcorn!