During the years that I suffered with chronic depression, anxiety, eating-disorders, low self-esteem and stress I never really scraped the surface to investigate why exactly I felt so awful and engaged in my self-sabotaging behaviour.
The majority of the time, the most that I would admit to was that I felt “depressed” or “anxious” or “stressed,” but if anyone had asked me why this was, I would have answered that I didn’t know or else I would have tried to blame someone else for it.
I assumed that the best way to deal with painful or unwanted emotions was to ignore them, but actually this approach did nothing to make the negative emotions go away.
It just made things more painful as these feelings began to root themselves deeper into my subconscious, distorting my personality and becoming entrenched in my sense of identity.
What I’ve now come to learn is that negative emotions are really nothing to be afraid of or avoid, they are simply messages to let us know if we’re heading in the right or wrong direction.
So when anger, guilt or sadness show up in our lives, they are just there to tell us that something is not right.
As a society, we’re taught that any kind of “negative” emotion is a bad thing, but this can lead to a serious communication break-down with the one person that we need to clearly communicate with the most—ourselves.
Failure to remedy this breakdown and learn to speak the language of our emotions can lead to all sorts of psychological disorders, as I and many other people have discovered.
Learning to communicate properly with ourselves is one of the major keys to living a happy life.
When we fail to do this we feel a sense of disconnection that affects not only how we feel about ourselves but also in how we relate to the rest of the world.
As with any aspect of self-improvement, the first step to learning how to understand the message that is contained in our emotions is awareness—being aware of how we are actually feeling. So in order to create this level of awareness we must make it a frequent habit to ask ourselves, “How do I feel?”
This might sound a bit crazy but it’s a necessary step, because think about it…How often do we really do this? When others ask us how we are, how do we normally respond? “Fine.” “Good.” “Okay.”
To truly get face-to-face with the message that our emotions are trying to impart to us, it’s vital that we delve deeper than the superficial level that most of us go to. If we are feeling generally unhappy with life, the simple exercise of asking ourselves how we feel can sometimes provide us with answers that might come as a surprise.
For example, we might realise that we’re actually harbouring a lot of anger. And if that anger comes as a shock to us, then the next step is to ask ourselves why we feel that way.
In this step it’s important to be kind to ourselves and refrain from judgement.
We need to allow ourselves to truly explore all the reasons why we might be feeling the way we do. We shouldn’t try to assign blame to others or feel guilt ourselves and as tough as it might be to do this exercise, we also shouldn’t be tempted to run away from the emotion again.
The final step is to determine what lesson this emotion has come to teach us and act on it.
It may be that we need to learn how to fully forgive ourselves or someone else, or that we need to become better at creating emotional boundaries out of love. Whatever the negative emotion that manifested its way into our life, there will be a positive message of love that we can decipher from it and apply in our lives.
So why not try this simple exercise today?
Take a pen and paper, find a quiet place and ask yourself those three questions: How do I feel? Why do I feel that way? What lesson has this feeling come to teach me and how can I apply it? Write down your answers and give yourself time to reflect.
When we connect, converse and discover the messages that are contained in our emotions, we set off on the path to a much happier and fulfilling life.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Emily Bartran
Photo: Wikimedia Commons