Given all the years I worked with young kids, I can’t begin to guess how much I’ve said “You get what you get and you don’t get upset.” It makes sense, right? I mean, someone’s gonna get a slightly bigger cookie, but you’re not gonna go dessert-less. Someone’s gonna get to the red blocks first but there will still be plenty of blue ones to play with.
But lately I’ve realized this isn’t always the best lesson for kids—or for anyone. I’m not saying we should start throwing temper tantrums when we don’t get what we want, but acknowledging our feelings and understanding why they’re there is a powerful way to help us get on the right track.
This means allowing ourselves to experience all our emotions. And if you’re one of the many who’d rather squelch those not-so-fun feelings, I urge you to feel them anyway. After all, research has shown emotions only take 90 seconds to run their course. That’s it.
Plus, if you choose to tamp down those feelings, I can pretty much guarantee stuff will build up until one day you suddenly explode, causing some serious fallout.
So…that minute and a half of discomfort sounding any better?
I’m gonna assume your answer’s yes. I’m also gonna guess you’re imagining yourself happily getting back to business after those 90 seconds.
Not so much.
Now it’s time to look at why those feelings came up in the first place. If you don’t understand the reason they’re there and make the necessary changes, they’ll continue to show up until you get the message—kinda like a real-life version of “Groundhog Day.”
So let’s say you’re upset about being passed over for a promotion. Are you mad because your manager doesn’t have your back? Because you know you have more experience than the person who got the job? Because you genuinely didn’t do what you needed to in order to climb the corporate ladder? Clearly, each of these reasons would lead to different actions.
Regardless of your particular situation, homing in on why you’re feeling what you’re feeling will help you figure out the next steps you need to take. And, for the record, your next steps should feel good, even if there’s some nervousness around them. If it feels like what you should do rather than what you want to do, PLEASE stop and reconsider before making any moves!
In the end, feelings are just a way for our hearts to alert us to what’s really going on—and that goes for all the emotions.
Whenever something brings up emotions that feel good—happiness, excitement, calmness, etc.—your heart’s telling you you’re on the right track. Yay, you! Keep going!
But if, for example, you’re not excited about something you think you should be excited about, that’s a sign you’re following your head, not your heart. (In general, the word “should” tends to be a giveaway that your head’s taken the lead.)
And if something brings up emotions that aren’t so enjoyable, it’s a sign that it’s time to do a little soul searching.
**WE NOW INTERRUPT YOUR REGULARLY SCHEDULED BLOG POST TO BRING YOU A POWERFUL SELF-COACHING TOOL**
A great way to figure out the real reason for your feelings is to write a sentence that explains the situation, then substitute yourself for any third parties.
What this looks like—a real life application:
When I was dealing with a difficult time at an old job, my sentence was: I feel angry with management because they aren’t listening to me.
Given the circumstances, it made sense that I would feel that way. However, the huge shift came when I did the second part of this exercise:
I feel angry with myself because I’m not listening to me.
At that time in my life, every part of me was yelling at me to resign: I had all kinds of health issues, my tears were uncontrollable, my brain could barely manage basic tasks, and my hands would often spontaneously spell out “I quit” (and various expletives) using the American Sign Language alphabet.
I knew exactly what my heart was telling me, yet I continued to stay because I gave into the fear-filled thoughts about all the bad things that might happen if I quit. Subconsciously, I was absolutely pissed at myself for doing this.
My epiphany helped me understand what was really going on and what to do about it. With time, it also helped me let go of those strong emotions, understand that everyone involved was just doing their best (including me), and feel grateful for that tough situation that taught me so much and ultimately pushed me out of the nest so I could fly.
Think about something you’re dealing with that brings up strong emotions. Then fill in the blanks below:
I feel ___________at ___________because _______________.
Now write that same sentence, but replace others’ names/”he”/”she”/”they” with your name/”I”/”me.”
I feel ___________at ___________because _______________.
Maybe this exercise will get you clearer on what action you need to take. Maybe it will inspire you to get help. But whatever comes of it, chances are it’ll ultimately lead you to a situation that feels a heck of a lot better than the one you’re in right now.
**WE NOW RETURN TO OUR REGULARLY SCHEDULED BLOG POST**
Our culture tends to label anger, fear, etc. as bad emotions, but there is no such thing as a bad emotion. Feelings are just your heart communicating with you, trying to help you understand what’s really going on and keep you going in the right direction. Simply put, emotions = information.
So the next time you’re distressed, take a deep breath and know it’s just your heart lovingly saying, “You get what you get, but it’s okay to get upset. Now go ahead and feel your feelings, find out why they’re showing up, and use that knowledge to decide where to go from here.”
Katie Baron: life coach, freelance writer, animal and nature lover, musician, relentless optimist