Never apologize for how you feel. No one can control how they feel. The sun doesn’t apologize for being the sun. The rain doesn’t say sorry for falling. Feelings just are. – Iain Thomas
I get super emotional at least once a day.
What can I say? I’m a high sensitive.
But recently, I’ve really been working on the way I deal with my emotions.
After more than a decade of dedication to my personal and spiritual growth, I’m finally at a stage where I can correctly identify, and openly express, my feelings (phew).
Unfortunately, that’s only half the battle.
Once I know what I’m feeling, I tend to kinda dump this on people.
Managing our emotions = self care
My partner drew this to my attention after I left him a crazy-long voice message about a fight I’d just witnessed, and the anxiety I felt about it.
I actually said in the message, “I just needed to tell someone because I’m on my way to a meeting and I need to get this out first!”
FYI, I was using my partner as a verbal recepticle.
As soon as I have an uncomfortable feeling, I want to lessen the burden by tossing the proverbial “hot potato” of emotion to someone else.
Now they gotta deal with it too.
This allows me to avoid taking responsibility for – and dealing with – my emotions.
But (as I recently discovered) a way more effective practice is to process our emotion through journaling and/or meditation, and then reach out for support.
9 journal prompts to process your feelings
The beauty of journaling is that it’s available to us any time, anywhere.
And lawd knows that the times we’re not able to express our feelings (e.g. because we’d tell our boss he was an idiot and probably get fired) are often when we most need to vent.
You don’t need a proper journal to do this, either; a notes app or fresh Word doc will do just fine.
These 9 journal prompts are designed to guide you through those emotionally charged moments in life.
1. What’s really going on?
We need to allow ourselves to ‘brainbarf’ on to the page here.
This is where we get to vent, so we can see things a little clearer.
Once I’m done writing, I tend to read my answer, then ask this question again – this time, as if I was an objective bystander (who’s not emotionally involved).
Hint: I usually get a totally different answer the second time around.
2. What’s not working?
Once we’ve identified what’s really going on, take a moment to reflect on why this is a problem.
If we’re feeling emotional, it can be hard to untangle ourselves from this in order to evaluate the situation.
We can only try.
I find it really helpful to think about what’s not working for me as well as what might not be working for others involved in the situation. What are the issues from their perspective?
3. How have I been complicit in creating these conditions?
Get ready for a little tough love; nothing ever happens to us by accident.
Even if we’re unhappy about a situation, we’ve usually been complicit in creating it (e.g. by tolerating, accepting, or ignoring something we wish we hadn’t).
It’s hard to go here, but if you’ve worked through the first two prompts you might have already gained a little perspective.
I also usually ask myself what I’ve done (or allowed) for this to be happening right now, and what I can do to prevent it from happening again.
4. What am I not saying that needs to be said?
When we feel highly emotional, part of it might be due to not speaking our truth.
This can cause us so much pain.
My own natural tendency is to dance around a subject and communicate indirectly; so asking this question helps me get to the root of my truth, and what I need to say.
5. What am I saying that’s not being heard?
It’s so frustrating to tell someone what’s going on with us – and they just don’t get it.
Or worse, they completely misunderstand or misinterpret what we’ve said.
As with question 3, I tend to reflect on what I’m doing in this situation:
- Am I communicating clearly?
- Is there any room for ambiguity?
- How could I express this in a different way, and check for understanding?
6. How am I feeling?
Now it’s time to check back in with our emotions – the deep, scary ones which triggered our initial (surface-level) reactions.
For example, if my boss criticises me I might feel angry on the surface. But underneath, I feel really sad and disappointed.
This check-in helps me to tune in to what I’m really feeling, and reveals what’s actually lurking underneath the surface of my emotional distress.
7. What do I need?
Once we’ve identified how we’re feeling, the next step is to figure out what we need.
When we’re feeling emotional, it’s likely that we have a need that isn’t currently being met – so we end up feeling crappy.
It often takes me a while to understand what exactly I need (e.g. space, rest, honesty, respect, and so on) but once I do, I’m able to decide on a strategy for how to get this need met.
Essentially, I start to take my power back.
8. If that need is met, what will that get me?
Now we know what we need, we can picture what we think will happen once we get this need met.
This is what we’re yearning for, underneath all of that emotion.
I love this asking question because it helps me to shift my attention away from what I don’t want, and redirects it towards what I do want.
9. How do I want to feel in my body and my heart?
Reconnecting to how we want to feel also trains us not to dwell in our negativity, and instead focus on what we’re working towards.
It helps to pause and really feel into your body at this point.
When asking this question, I like to make a list of adjectives that make me feel totally open and expanded; my favourites are magical, free, whole, abundant, sensual, feminine, and joyful.
Bonus question: what can I learn from this?
Self care isn’t just about looking after ourselves; it’s also about growth.
And where do we find the most growth?
In our wounds.
I love to end a good journaling sesh by asking myself:
- What could I learn from this experience?
- How could I use this to help others?
- How could I apply this to my teaching?
In every pile of crap, there’s a nugget of wisdom waiting to be discovered.