For those of us in the north this has been a very long winter. One of the coldest on record with lots of snow. And at a time when it should feel like spring is on its way, we still have very cold temperatures. It feels like it may never end. But it will.
That is how it sometimes feels when challenging things happen in our lives. It can feel like the challenges, the hard work, the irritation, the hurt, the anger will never go away. The emotions can feel so strong that we are unable to imagine them ever subsiding. But they will.
Strong emotions have that impact on us. They can limit our ability to even imagine that they may subside and other emotions, like happiness, joy, hope and love will show up again. It is like an emotional winter. Long months of early darkness, little desire to do venture out to do anything, and the alternating feelings of intense discomfort and numbness. It feels like we will never feel anything better.
We know this about the seasons – the temperatures will eventually warm. The snow will melt. The grass will turn green and the trees will develop buds and then burst out with leaves. The world will feel very different.
And in the same way our emotional winters end, even if we have trouble believing it when we are in them. Slowly the intensity of the difficult emotions will subside. Other emotions will start slowly start to enter our awareness. It will be subtle at first. They may make a short appearance and then disappear for awhile before they come back again. Just like we get warm days interspersed with cold and snow as winter gets closer to spring.
Getting through emotional winters is not that different than getting through the real ones. We rely on the knowledge that it will get better. That things will change for the better. And just like the actual weather, it won’t stay that way forever. But it will come back again.
I tell so many clients that they need to be more in touch with their emotions. But when we get into an emotional winter what we need to do is ground ourselves more in the logical, rational thoughts. That isn’t to say we should ignore our emotions. We still need to experience them, to process them.
What we can do is to trust our rational thoughts that things will get better. While our emotions are telling us that the winter will never end, we can hold on to the knowledge that it will. Our emotions change. Difficult emotions subside. Just because we aren’t happy now doesn’t mean we won’t be happy again.
Don’t let your emotions completely drown out your rational thoughts. Hold on to them to get you through. Then start looking for the small signs that your emotional spring is near. A laugh here or there. A sliver of hope. A moment or two of joy. Let that add to your evidence that things are going to change. Because one thing we know for sure – spring follows winter.