It is November, and that means the holidays are coming! This time of year is often associated with celebration and family, but for many ‘tis the season for emotions. These emotions can range from joy and anticipation to anxiety, grief, anger, and so many others. And so now is also the time to ask yourself: how do you typically react when you have emotions?
What about ones that seem to wash over you like a ten foot wave, tumble you around and carry you out to sea? It is human nature to try to put up some kind of barrier to help calm those tides – and it works, for a time. Addiction, whether we are talking substances, food, or any other compulsive behavior, many times feeds into what could be called “emotion phobia.”
Feelings and urges/cravings are so big that they can feel intolerable, and as if they need to be escaped. This is a natural part of the human condition on steroids. And the more that those feelings are successfully postponed, the more this reinforces the habit of postponing them further, as if proving to oneself that they can’t be managed. But that emotional energy doesn’t go away. It’s stored up so that it can come back even stronger. Or else in ulcers. So, the next time that a feeling comes up, try exploring a new relationship with these feelings.
Can you observe them? Maybe even allow them to be? Can you have those feelings without acting on them? Rather than getting caught up in the story around the emotion, or trying to compulsively change it, what would it mean to practice compassion toward that emotion and toward yourself?
Kirsten Helgager, PsyD
AToN Center 888-535-1516