Although lockdown in the UK has been in force for around a month, I haven’t felt the full effects until this week because I’ve been working, albeit from home. Because of the immediacy of the “stay at home” instruction from the UK government, work was turned upside down. So for the first few weeks, the regrouping was wholly time-consuming. But this past week I’ve had some time off. During this time off, I have experienced some mild but upsetting emotions.
I was pretty nervous about taking the time off but also conversely looking forward to it. Normally I would use the time to catch up with family and friends. I have done that to an extent, it’s just not the same when face-timing or “What’s Apping”. I’m badly missing my adult children and my grandchildren and can’t wait to see them. What this last week has shown me is what happens to my emotions when I’m not constantly distracted by work, chores or my social life.
Experiencing upsetting emotions
I’ve practised emotional intelligence techniques for years. I truly understand this gift of a guidance system which helps us to navigate life if we would only but recognise it. I guess in the early days of my quest to master my emotions I thought I would be free of negative or upsetting emotions and sail into a life of joy and happiness. Of course, that’s simply not the case. I still experience a range of upsetting emotions. It is truly the work of a lifetime. What I do have though are tools and an understanding of what’s happening which means that no matter how dark my feelings are, I realise whatever particular emotion arises, it’s a temporary state.
Four upsetting emotions
Here I describe four upsetting emotions and a short rationale around why they arise.
The feeling of boredom for me is a restlessness, irritation and very subtle grief. I feel like I need to rush out and just DO something, but instead, just feel down and tearful. I read once that boredom is the state of being you enter when your unresolved negative emotions begin to arise and you have nothing to distract you. That just makes perfect sense to me. We suppress and bury so many unresolved emotions in this journey of life and yet our psyche wants us to release and heal them. A continued state of boredom is simply our resistance to feeling and releasing unresolved pain or anger.
At any one time in our busy days, if we thought about it, we could list 100 things we need to do. Life is busy and it’s very rare any of can sit down and say, “yep everything done”. But we mostly carry this around and manage to get stuff done just in time. We have a routine. It is when our routine is shaken when we often become overwhelmed. So something goes wrong, it means we have more than usual to do, and suddenly everything becomes urgent. The feeling of overwhelm is that of powerlessness and fear that chaos will ensue. A fragile acknowledgement that we are limited beings.
Being in despair is a deepened state of sadness and hopelessness. Nothing has meaning. We all laugh about empty nest syndrome, but actually, when I experienced it, I felt despair at times because my overall purpose for existing was gone. No longer did I need to earn that money to feed the kids. No longer did I have to do things I didn’t like because I needed to keep a roof over their head. I lost direction and felt despairing for a while until I finally developed a renewed sense of purpose. Of course, people can experience despair for much more serious and debilitating reasons. The overarching premise though is lack of purpose, lack of control and a feeling of abject hopelessness.
This week I have felt some loneliness. It took me back to my childhood where my constant state was that of loneliness. Not because people weren’t around me, but because I just didn’t feel connected to them. This was because of my then low self-esteem and just a feeling I was wrong. I am no longer in that space, but the change from the physical presence of my loved ones to that of them being out of sight has brought up some unresolved feelings of the perception that I could well be on my own in the world, of somehow not being worthy of connection.
Some tools to combat upsetting emotions
What I have learned about my emotions is that they are there to help us learn about our selves. Our negative emotions tell us that what we are thinking is not in line with our higher self. Over the years, the following principles and practices have helped me to manage, heal and appreciate my emotions, even my negative ones.
1. Do not fear your feelings
Your feelings are meant to be felt and to pass through your body and system. All feelings if you allow them to come into your experience can be healed. However, we fear this is not the case, especially when we are grieving or in abject pain. Michael A Singer, author of “The Untethered Soul” contends that when experiencing negative feelings you should just “Let go and give room for the pain to pass through you, It’s just energy. Just see it as energy and let it go.”
This might take some practice and you might need some help, but if you can hold onto the principle that pain is just negative energy, then it can help to maintain some perspective and help to allay your fears. What many of us do is repress and suppress negative emotions. While this might give us some temporary relief, actually that negativity filters through everything you do or experience.
2. Your feelings do not mean anything about you
I can remember clearly my first love. I was a teenager, and it was a short but exhilarating romance. He was a bit older than me and I was dazzled. After a few months, he ended it and I was absolutely heartbroken. I spent what seemed like eons being miserable and playing sad music indulging in my broken-heartedness. The reality was, of course, the upsetting emotions were about how I interpreted the information. I wasn’t good enough. His new girlfriend was much better than me. I was boring, not attractive… on and on. I came to the conclusion he must really hate me. The hurt was created by my thinking and in turn, I used the resulting feelings to wallow in my own lack of self-esteem.
Years later, I bumped into him. He told me that he was heartbroken when he ended it, I was simply too young for him and if I had been older he would have wanted to marry me! I’ve had many experiences with relationships or other interactions which have without a shadow of doubt proved to me that our feelings are exacerbated by our negative “ego story” and in reality, our feelings do not mean anything about us at all.
3. You can observe your feelings
When you realise your feelings do not mean anything about you and indeed they are not you, then you can get into a position of power and being able to cope by being able to observe your feelings. If you imagine you are watching an all-absorbing film and the sequences are making you feel incredibly sad or emotional or scared. Your adrenalin is working overtime, then you have an understanding of how you similarly get absorbed in your feelings. When this is the case you can quite easily shift your point of perception.
When you realise you are simply observing a film and you don’t have to get involved in the roller coaster of feelings it can create within you you detach. You can similarly temporarily detach from what you are feeling to observe other things or watch your feelings. The ability to observe your feelings without getting emersed is your first point of being able to take back the power your feelings can have over you.
4. You can heal your negative feelings
I first discovered that actually my feelings weren’t meant to be there forever, and I could heal them when I read John Gray’s book “What You Feel, You Can Heal. The book shows how if we let our feelings come up, they can be healed and it contains techniques for healing. However, the most powerful technique I have used over the years is that of Transactional Analysis. While Transactional Analysis is mainly centred around the Parent: Adult: Child model, there is a simple method I picked up which has helped to heal upsetting emotions several times.
I always bit my nails, I was a nervous child, I always felt anxious. I lived with this state until I was in my late 20’s. For some reason, when in the library, I picked up a book about anxiety. It contended that anxiety was probably a result of a suppressed emotion from childhood. In order to access this suppressed emotion, I needed to let the feeling come up and allow the memory of what happened to come into my awareness. I remember following the instructions and a memory emerged from when I was around 4 years old. I was at school and there was a terrible storm. All pupils were being kept in a classroom until their parents came and collected them.
But my parents didn’t come. I was all alone with the teachers for what seemed like hours. They were, in turn, annoyed because they wanted to get home. Eventually, my adult sister came and collected me. But it was the hours I spent crying inside thinking I had been abandoned that caused my anxiety. Once the memory came up and I could rationalise and tell a different version, my anxiety which had lasted over 2 decades was gone.
5. If you can’t face your feelings get some professional help
Because I have spent years working on upsetting emotions and using lots of self-help techniques to heal negative patterns, I am not always scared to feel my feelings. I’ve always encouraged my kids to have a good cry and to allow their feelings to come up when they need to. However, sometimes suppression or repression can catch up and the intensity of your emotions may feel too much to bear. If this is the case then you must seek some professional help. There is some really effective help out there.
On a couple of occasions, I used the services of professional counsellors. One experience was not positive, but the other counsellor I managed to work with was like a magician and she helped me change my life. If you suspect you have repressed feelings and you can’t face letting them come up, consider working with a counsellor or other professional.
So you can heal your emotions and if you are experiencing negative emotions in this time of lockdown then it could just be the perfect opportunity to heal them forever.