We aren’t properly taught how to deal positively with our emotions as children. Well, scrub that, I mean most of us aren’t taught how to properly deal with our emotions as they come to us.
Yesterday on my podcast I was talking about being present when you feel any kind of emotion whatsoever. Whether it’s happiness, sadness, anger, or even confusion; accepting that those are yours and they are completely valid is pivotal to moving forward. I explained that my parents weren’t very productive in helping me sort out what I was feeling, or even accept that I should be feeling what I was feeling — crying would have been met by my Dads heavy hand, and disapproval when I was older, and Mum would always tell me that it wasn’t good to cry, or be sad; completely invalidating what I was feeling.
The funny thing about emotions is that they are here to stay, whether you deal with them right now or you decide to deal with the several years in the future. I remember crying intensively at my counsellor’s feet as I let go of all the anger and sadness I had bottled up from a previous relationship that had ended suddenly and unexpectantly, and instead of dealing with it, I had refused to accept there even was a situation. I shoved those emotions far down into the pit of despair in my stomach. I also remember launching an oven bowl out of my rented house window after completely smashing up the place as I let loose the gates of hell and the anger I felt towards people that didn’t take me seriously — this is the kind of emotional outburst that comes from not acknowledging your feelings.
As I more and more learn to deal with my emotions healthily I am finding that it’s better to accept them. It’s better to recognise that I am completely justified in how I feel at present. Previously, I would tell myself that my anger is stupid, or that my sadness is silly because that’s the way I was brought up to feel — that I had to wear a mask for the real world; the perfect happy boy all the time that didn’t say anything bad to anyone but was actually a burning, festering pit of rage inside.
Taking it a step further I have learned to trust my reactions when I deal with my emotions as I have them. This was something that I learned to covertly hide as a young boy; if anger was to surface then I would push it back down because I knew something bad was going to happen, and not just with my parents but amongst my peers too. It can be said that people seek friendship circles and partners by what they give out to people. Two lost boys can attract each other for friendships and so forth.
Trusting my actions when dealing with my emotions overtly was probably one of the hardest situations to overcome. I had to strip right down what I had learned from a very young age to the bare bones and relearn everything. I had to stop guilting myself into taking no action when someone was taking advantage of me, I had to learn to speak up in situations where normally I wouldn’t speak up, and I had to learn to show vulnerability when I was feeling vulnerable. There was a lot of shite to wade through; telling that niggling voice in my head to shut up for most of the time and to just leap out and go ahead and do it. Most of the time it wasn’t anywhere as bad as my mind had imagined it.
This is why I had to learn risk. A small amount of managed risk. As a young man; after several stays in a psych ward, a lost job, no career, life down the drain, and most of his friends and acquaintances had disappeared, risk wasn’t a thing I was very partial to. I had been beaten back into a pulp of mush that was scared to take any sort of risk whatsoever. Yet I had to persist. If I didn’t take risks, then I wouldn’t get better at anything and I wouldn’t move forward in life at all. So, I began answering people back, I began standing up for myself, and I started to get vulnerable when it was required. It felt weird and strangely open at first, but that faded, and almost always people were more uncomfortable than me in the situation.
It took a while, but once I had realised my anxiety and fear had been keeping me back all my life it wasn’t long before I was making leaps into situations and working it out as I went along. The real fear was letting go of that control. For most of my life I tried to control situations very closely. I’d get very upset and hurt when events didn’t turn my way. But, as I was getting acquainted with risk, standing up for myself, and diving head first into situations, I realised I had to let go a lot of that control, because by doing all these new things I understood that I couldn’t control other people. I had no idea what others were going to do no matter how much I thought I had a handle on psychology — people are unpredictable.
The control? I dropped it like a hot rock. I started to take the world as it came to me and adjusted myself to fit myself in the moment.
And thus, a new man was born. A fierce defender; a fighter, an entrepreneur, a teacher, and also a student. I eventually became a Husband, and a short time later a father. I learned to love myself and the world around me.
If you’re asking me how to deal with your emotions and trust yourself that you’ll deal with them effectively then my advice to you is this:
Stop holding back. You’re never going to get anywhere holding back. Face your fears (not life-threatening ones), and deal with them head-on. You’ll begin to realise that people are VERY different, the situation at hand will never be as bad as you think, and that no matter what you do, the only person you can control is yourself, and those emotions you’re feeling at the time? Accept them, because they are justified.
Do that many times and you’ll begin to open up a whole new world with amazing opportunities.
Previously published on Medium