Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Make emotions your friend!

This blog entry comes from a conversation I had with my husband Jim. We are both hot heads although over the years have learned to 'most of the time' control our outbursts but this very control I believe has affected our relationship with our emotions. Until now :-)

I am in the middle of reading a wonderful book (I would recommend it to any parent) 'The Complete Secrets of Happy Children' by Steve Biddulph. The chapter entitled Kids and Emotions actually starts out with a confession from the author that this title is a little idealistic; "In the adult world, no-one is ever, or would want to be - continually happy. So for our children, such an aim actually would be wrong.............. What we really want is kids who can handle and move along through the many feelings that life brings... Joy is the goal, but being comfortable and experiencing all the emotions life brings is the way to get there most often".

Many adults I meet personally and work with therapeutically have never learned these skills (I know myself my Hypnotherapy and Counselling course changed my world in this respect and I was 30 when I attended it). And it is not really surprising as many of us have grown up in a world of "stiff upper lips", "keep your chin up", "it is not ladylike to get angry", "big boys don't cry", "don't be a big girls blouse", "putting a brave face on things" and I am sure there are many more you can think of. When I am working with people I always say "If it FEELS right it is right" but for so many who have not only learned but been brainwashed into squashing perceived negative emotions this is not always an easy thing to trust.

When our babies are born they are not inhibited and therefore will show their emotions freely and as a result the negative emotions that they have rarely last long. Although of course they do need direction on how to channel these powerful emotions appropriately but this is where it can end up going so so wrong. It is at this point kids need to learn to make friends with their emotions not see some as their enemy. The good news is though if you didn't learn this as a kid you can open your mind to the possibility now and as is often the case in any good relationship it is based on understanding.

We may sometimes wish that we had no feelings, when our heart has been broken, we've lost someone dear to us, someone is treating us badly and so on but ALL of our emotions have a very big role to play, yes even the negative one.

Our emotions range from subtle to very strong in intensity and, put simply, are there to tell the subconscious what it needs to do to run the body and to help us as we move through the different events and experiences of our lives.

There are four basic emotions:

  • Anger
  • Fear
  • Sadness
  • Joy
All other shades of feelings are a mix of these and there are thousands of combinations possible.

Imagine for a moment that you never felt ANGRY couldn't you so easily become life's doormat? In fact I'm sure we all know at least one person who has been taught that they must not show anger (they may well be feeling it but certainly not showing it) and don't people just walk all over them. ANGER makes us stand up for ourselves - it "keeps us free" (It should be noted that this is not the same as violence. Violence is anger gone wrong).

Think of a time when you looked after a young child, newly crawling and exploring their world, they have NO FEAR. You have to make sure that they don't fall down the stairs, stick their hands in the fire, etc. Now imagine you have no fear of ANYTHING!!!! It doesn't bare thinking about does it, let alone imagining. Fear slows us down, forces us to stop and think and avoid danger - often our gut instinct has even perceived something long before the conscious brain understands what and therefore FEAR "keeps us safe".

SADNESS helps us to heal. When we feel sad the chemical changes that occur help our brain to physically release the pain. People say that time heals everything - in a manner of speaking but the time is needed for the brain to release the pain. For some, depending on the type of hurt, that may mean many years and/or a strong support network. In some circumstances an element of sadness never goes away and that is appropriate too as we want to remember. But properly handled SADNESS helps us to move on to new life, enabling us to let go and make new contact with people and experiences.

All three of these outcomes are central to our happiness and JOY is what we start to experience when these needs are fulfilled.

Understanding how useful our emotions are opens up our minds to the possibility of embracing those feelings, to make emotions our friend. Acknowledge your emotions as you become aware of them think about why you are feeling a certain way, take action if appropriate, use them to learn about your behaviour patterns and make changes if you want to. It may seem a lot to take on but whenever you are unsure as to what to do imagine that you are a small child and your adult self is there to guide you.
  • Help the angry child wanting to express him/herself use clear lines of communication to ensure they are heard?
  • Talk to the frighten child about what is scaring them. Help them explore the facts, think it through, seek out help.
  • Maybe all the sad child needs is a hug and the reassurance of knowing that this is how the body is designed to heal. Acknowledge the pain, express it when it bubbles up and let it rest as it may.
  • Joy - allow the child in you to run free and have fun whenever the opportunity arises
Obviously as I said before there are many thousands of possible combinations of the four basic emotions but, as it would be impossible and unnecessary for me to list them, I will leave you to contemplate what advice you would give your small child as different emotions arise.

Don't feel the need to squash down the more difficult emotions and 'put a brave face on things' or in fact hide your joy to protect another. It doesn't have to be about 'washing your dirty laundry in public' (there goes another one) or 'rubbing someone's face in it' (and another) just expressing how you are feeling in a clear and honest way to yourself and to others when you are 'happy' or 'sad'.


If you'd like support exploring the ideas presented on this post you may be interested to learn more about my Happy Mums! programme.

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