I’ve mentioned before how certain themes seem to run through therapy. Sometimes there are certain issues that appear over and over in the period of a few days or a week. There are also certain ideas or “lessons” that frequently come as a surprise to some clients. I’ll frequently be told that things make more sense once someone considers these ideas.
I’m going to share a few of them with you. They are in no particular order. I may have more to share in later posts but think about these and see if any of them come as a surprise to you.
1) You can have more than one emotion at a time. While it is true that often one emotion may rise to the top at any given time, we still hold and experience multiple emotions. We might be experiencing fear about a new situation but we may also be excited, happy and curious at the same time.
Why is this important? Because the mistake that is so often made is to make a decision based on the predominant emotion of the time. When that emotion comes down there may be regret about the decision. Don’t let just your predominant emotion drive your decision…check in with all of them.
2) All emotions are good, even the “bad” ones. I’ve said this before – emotions are beautiful things, all of them. The beautiful thing is that they reflect what is going on inside of us and they do that for a reason. Embrace the fact that your emotions are smart enough and complex enough to reflect what is going on in you.
3) You can’t selectively suppress emotions. People often think they can just not experience the “bad” emotions and enjoy the “good” ones. But the truth is if you try to mute an emotion you mute them all. You can’t be selective. Your emotional system is all connected. Don’t limit your ability to enjoy positive emotions just because you want to avoid the less fun ones.
4) Processing emotions is not the same as stuffing them away. Often clients will talk about an emotional event in their past. When I ask them if they processed their emotions about it they will say “Oh, I just put it behind me and moved on. There is nothing I can do about it.”
The trouble is that is not correct. Emotions have energy. Processing emotions is about letting that energy run its course. What too commonly happens is instead of processing the emotion, people try to stuff it away and “move on.” But that emotional energy won’t stay stuffed away. It starts to leak out…but not in good ways. It comes out when you don’t want it, in unexpected ways and unexpected settings.
Emotional energy needs to be expressed. That means being sad until you are less sad. Being angry until the energy of that anger dissipates. Be happy as long as your energy lasts!
5) Just because it is the right thing to do doesn’t mean it will be easy. I’ve heard it too many times. “I didn’t think it was the right thing to do because it was so hard. Doing the right thing should be easy.”
If only that was true. Unfortunately the correctness of the action is unrelated to how difficult it is to do. So make the correct decision and then just do it (sorry Nike)…regardless of how difficult it is.