How to get to the root of an emotion

emotionsFace it. Some emotions such as joy, excitement and happiness feel good. Others, such as anger, sadness and fear aren’t as pleasant. But one of the biggest mistakes you can make is ignoring the message an emotion may have for you just because it feels uncomfortable.

Instead, recognize that EVERY emotion has a message for you. For example, anger over the way your boss spoke to you may be telling you that it’s time for you to look for another job. Jealousy over a friend’s successful weight loss may be telling you that you should pay better attention to your own health.

Getting to the root of an emotion is one of the most powerful things you can do. But how do you do this?

First, acknowledge that the emotion is there. Often we try to pretend we’re not afraid or we’re not lonely or we’re not angry about something. Give yourself permission to feel whatever you feel.

Second, sit with the emotion. When you feel an uncomfortable emotion, your first instinct might be to try to push it away. We might do things that help to blunt our feelings such as drink alcohol, eat junk food or get lost in a movie or other form of escape. Instead of doing those things, allow yourself to sit with the emotion. Feel the way it feels in your body. You’ll notice that, in most cases, the emotion will soon begin to fade in intensity.

Third, give yourself a little distance. Once you’ve sat with the emotion for a few minutes, move on to something else. Don’t stew in the emotion. Do something you enjoy. This will help you to realize that whatever caused the uncomfortable sensation is not the only thing going on in your life. It gives you perspective.

Fourth, after some hours have passed or perhaps after you’ve slept on it, consider your strong reaction again. You’ll probably notice that the emotion is no longer as strong, and you can start to think about why you reacted the way you did. Start asking yourself questions about what you could change to keep this emotion from occurring again. For example, if you were angry with the way someone treated you, can you take an action that would prevent that from happening again? If you were feeling sad and lonely, could you take an action in your life that would allow you to meet new people and minimize your chances of feeling that way in the future?

A great tool for working with your emotions and discovering how they an empower you rather than control you is the audio download from Esther and Jerry Hicks: The Astonishing Power of Emotions.

Getting to the root of an emotion rarely has anything to do with anyone outside of yourself. Your emotions give you guidance on what your next steps should be. It’s up to you to listen to those messages and focus on the actions that will lead you to feel better.

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