“Did you ever do something and then a second later, wish that you hadn’t? Man, I wish I could rewind to the moment before I yelled at my spouse because someone upset me at work. And that moment before I self-medicated with that Kit Kat bar. Okay, and that double martini. All right, the pack of menthols.”
As promised, the upcoming blogs offer application of the assumption editing process to a range of life areas. We begin with our emotions – the often un-noticed well from which our choices flow, as expressed above. How we are affected and how we express these feelings are different for each of us.
Some find it difficult to identify or express their feelings. They feel that they are not supposed to let out their emotions, to cry, or to talk about how they feel. Some try to hide their emotions, hoping that they will go away, but they don’t disappear, they just hide out. Some try to push them away through food and other substances.
Without realizing it, however, we are propelled by our feelings to act to change them, remove them or increase them. As the above monologue indicates, this can lead to choices that bring no result, the opposite result, or results not necessarily in our or others’ best interest. With increased awareness of feelings and how to respond to them, we can move toward choosing and rehearsing how we would like to feel and how to express and deal with those feelings.
First, however, we need to become aware that we are experiencing an emotion. Since emotions affect us physically, we can first look to our bodies for clues as to the nature of that emotion. We can look for examples of tension in our muscles throughout our body. That’s not always an easy task, because we can become immune to and therefore unaware of its existence. We can start by exploring whether or not we are holding tension in our stomachs or heads. These areas are often recipients of our tension, which can lead to stomach pains and headaches.
In order to increase awareness of our emotions, we can also examine if our daily habits have changed at all. Often, when we are experiencing certain emotions that we’re not handling, we can find that our eating habits have changed – eat more or eating less than in the past. Also, our sleeping patterns can change, needing more sleep or not being able to sleep as much. Our relationships with others can be altered as well. For example, we may feel like we want to isolate ourselves, or we may feel like we need more support.
Once we are aware that we are experiencing an emotion, it is helpful to examine the assumptions that we may hold regarding our responses to our emotions. If we hold the assumption that “big girls and real men must be strong and never show their emotions”, our responses to our feelings are then very limited. The only option we have left ourselves with is to stuff the feeling down and try to ignore it.
However as I have said, emotions propel us to deal with them in some way by making themselves known. Not dealt with, they can often build up and then, as in the monologue, spill over in ways that we did not want. We can examine and edit our assumptions to expand our options and take control over how we handle our emotions.
We can look at expression of feelings through a lens that encompasses shades of gray in our thinking instead of an all or nothing outlook. When we assume that we must be strong and never show our emotions, we are saying that there are no other choices available. We are also saying that the only way to be strong is to hide our feelings.
We could look at the possibility that real men and big girls can sometimes show their emotions, in ways that they choose. We can understand that expressing an emotion is a human need, and does not automatically make us less of a man or a little girl. We can also consider the possibility that expression of feelings is not necessarily a sign of weakness. It may even make us stronger.
We can look at the realistic likely outcomes of expressing our emotions, rather than the worse case scenarios that we can often go to in our minds. We can safely predict that when we express our feelings, it is highly unlikely that we will thought of as any less of a person.
We don’t have to look at expressing emotions as letting everything out and falling apart. We can change one small habit, moving the gauge a little. Maybe you can pause before you say “fine” one time when asked how you are, and take a chance on letting someone know how you are really feeling.