developing emotional responsibility
Feelings are hard. As a woman, I almost expect to be overly emotional sometimes because of the stereotypes often perpetuated in the media. And I certainly can have strong emotional reactions to things. Recently though, I’ve realized how different my emotions and mood swings are than they used to be. I used to cry at the drop of a hat. Not that something sappy doesn’t still make me teary, but I don’t cry anymore just because I’m frustrated, angry, or took a wrong turn on the way home.
What I’ve learned is that a) your emotional state or level of ‘moodiness’ isn’t fixed and b) you absolutely do not have to be a slave to your emotions. Touching on point a…obviously there’s some variability in how emotional a woman might be throughout the course of a month. Just because you’re sensitive today, doesn’t mean you’ll be that way tomorrow. I think this is important to point out because there’s nothing wrong with having a more emotional day and you don’t want to label yourself as “overly emotional.” If you expect to be overly emotional, you will be (and I don’t know about you, but I don’t want that). But if you tell yourself you’re a strong, capable woman who is having a particularly sensitive day, then tomorrow is a whole different ball game.
So if you don’t want to be a slave to your emotions, what does it take to get there? First things first, self-awareness. That’s a fancy word for being able to recognize the patterns that are playing out in your mind. Take a look at what emotions you’re struggling with day to day. Is there something that’s triggering you? What’s your perspective on the situation? Are you seeing it in a negative or positive light. Recognizing the feelings is the first step in easing them. The best tool for that - meditation. It’s a miracle drug.
The second step (and maybe the hardest for many) is owning up to the fact that your feelings are your responsibility and yours alone. They can’t be fixed by someone else. I repeat: this is not on your partner, boss, best friend or dog to fix. While you may think “they made you feel this way,” the truth is, how you’re viewing the situation causes the emotional response and you have control over it. The situation you’re reacting to may not be what you want or planned for, but your reaction to it is 100% your choice. You can decide how to feel about it and that is empowering. Instead of wallowing or venting, you can decide to process the feelings and move past them. I swear it saves you time and obviously a lot of unnecessary heartache.
Here’s an example: let’s say you and your significant other get home from work. You start discussing your day and asking questions about theirs. He/she snaps at you and walks away. You have the options to:
a) Get angry + yell about it
b) Get angry + stew in your anger causing a blow up later
c) View the situation from a neutral point of view. They snapped at you. That made you feel [insert emotion here]. Why did they snap at you? What are they feeling? Is it possible this wasn’t related to you at all?
Coming from a neutral point of view (while you still may feel angry/frustrated/upset) at least allows you to see the situation for what it was and decide what reaction is warranted. It could just be a misunderstanding or unrelated to the triggering event. It allows you to understand what emotional reaction you’re having and not shoot it right back at the other person. It also gives you the chance to offer the other person the benefit of the doubt. Can you see how identifying the situation and the emotional reaction it invoked might temper the situation instead of escalating it?
One important note: your feelings are always valid and should still be respected by any involved party. It is totally okay to have the feelings, but it is not okay to project them on others. So the moment you lash out or blame the other person for your feelings, you’ve given away your power to control them and very possibly hurt someone in the process. In other words, you may have a problem with the situation or actions of another, but the way it made you feel is yours to own + manage.
Once you have a handle on what’s going on, you can decide how to deal with those emotions. Maybe you need to talk it out. Maybe you need to take some time to sit with it and better understand where it’s coming from. One of my favorite tricks is physically feeling it in my body. Like how anxiety sometimes feels like a pit in your stomach. Something about identifying what an emotion physically feels like disarms it a lot faster than just replaying the trigger over + over in your head.
A really awesome side effect of this is that you come to understand that other people’s feelings are not your own and are not your responsibility. So if your SO is having a bad day and projecting that a little bit, you can understand that they are just having some feelings + it’s not your fault. You can even help them work through what they’re feeling and hopefully help them process whatever it is so you can both move on. It’s so nice to be able to free yourself from any emotional limitations you may have inadvertently created for yourself and help others do the same.