There are different approaches when it comes to dealing with your emotions. You can express them or repress them, accept and feel them or just observe them.
Imagine you are feeling angry: the first thing you want to do is get the emotion out of your system and you very often end up shouting or swearing at someone, in a way transferring your anger onto them. This is the initial reaction you have when the emotion is triggered in you by that person or by a situation. Some triggers for your anger may be feeling threatened or attacked physically or psychologically, feeling disrespected or treated unfairly, or feeling frustrated and powerless.
In this case, venting your anger on a person can have devastating effects, and the worst part is that you lose control of yourself, of your words and actions, as your reaction occurs due to unconscious thoughts and impulses, which release chemicals in your brain that cause your body to act in certain ways.
And how long does this reaction last? According to neuroanatomist Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, within 90 seconds from the initial trigger, the automatic response is over. 90 seconds is all that is needed to have an aggressive reaction against your partner, parent or child, and even scar your relationship forever.
Observation and Breathing
Staying calm and observing your emotions as they emerge may sound impossible at first, especially when all you want to do is blame someone else for what you are feeling.
You may think that your anger, sadness, jealousy or fear is provoked by someone else’s behaviour, but in reality it is your own thoughts that have caused it.
Observing your emotions as they arise is a technique that can be practiced and learned. When you feel overwhelmed by fear, anxiety, anger or grief, first take a few moments to observe your thoughts. What is the thought, belief or pattern that caused the emotional reaction? Then, stay present with the emotion and feel it. Feeling our emotions can be very painful and this is why we constantly repress them. But if you can separate the emotion from the thought and feel it without identifying with it, you have made a giant step to freeing your life from emotional drama.
Focusing on your breathing can calm down your body and nervous system. Sit in silence, observing the emotional waves within you, take a deep breath in and try to breathe the air out as gently as you can, making the outbreath longer than the inbreath. This breathing technique activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which works to relax the body’s fight or flight response thus bringing about an overall feeling of relaxation.
If you still find it difficult to stay calm and observe your emotions, you can also express them, by doing physical activity, sports, by dancing, screaming out in the forest, or by hitting a pillow.
Transforming strong negative emotions, such as anxiety, anger or grief, can be a process that takes time. Allow yourself the time and space to observe, calm down or express what you are feeling. Emotions can move and change if we let them. But we should remember to stay in the role of the observer and not identify with them.