Imagine not being able to experience the joy of holding your baby, or that feeling of confidence over a job well done, or the excitement you feel cheering your favorite sports team. Life would be dull and robotic if it weren’t for those wonderful moments of joy and excitement and contentment.
Every day we experience emotions enabling us to enjoy life.
Emotions help us respond appropriately. They warn us of danger as well as bringing us incredible joy. But it’s not situations themselves that create our responses so much as it is our interpretations of what is happening.
I invite you to try the exercise in today’s post. It will help you identify patterns of emotional thinking and responses that might be working against you.
“How dare she!”
“That was mean!”
“That’s it – it’s over.”
“How could he do that to me?”
Someone has wronged us or betrayed us. Anger rises. It simmers in our thoughts as we contemplate our revenge: “Just wait; I’ll get even with you.”
And we repeat to ourselves over and over the injustice of the situation, of how we were treated and why we didn’t deserve it.
What felt like a kick in the stomach the first time is repeatedly replayed as we continue to stoke the flames of anger, hurt, and betrayal until we have a raging furnace inside of us – our stomach churning into hard knots, chilling our bones.
Anger, guilt or shame can become lingering emotions felt when losses were troubled by difficult circumstances.
We want a quick fix – one we don’t have to work with. Understanding our emotions can help us find a different response.
In my book, Learning to Live Again in a New World, there are two appendixes. In Appendix A, “Complex Grief Emotions,” I offer additional information on how to work through anger, guilt, shame and fear. Here is a quick overview of the first three.