The Mysterious Tale of Emotional Acceptance
“You cannot find peace by avoiding life” - Virginia Woolf
Have you ever thought about why you feel off at times? Maybe you woke up on the wrong side of the bed (or so you tell yourself)? Your road rage happens to be incredibly unusual on any given day. You feel anxious about going in to work. Or perhaps you are feeling withdrawn? You might be dismissive or even yell at anyone who comes your way, including the ones you love the most? Well, guess what? It is no coincidence that you are feeling some type of way. These are your emotions speaking to you and telling you how you really feel. Sometimes they come in at a high tide, take control and wash up the shores. Other times, they come in low and give you a polite nudge to let you know they are present.
Emotions serve a purpose. They help us survive, thrive and communicate with each other. They are cues we need to listen to as they indicate what we need and what is truly important to us. Emotions tell us when we are happy, angry, fearful, ashamed or in love. They tell us that we need nurturing, healing, protection, connection, approval, etc. However, it is second nature to dismiss and mask them with things that feel good in the moment (e.g. avoidance).
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Think of the possible Band-Aid solutions you have used to solve problems. They are usually quick fixes here and there. For instance, lately you have been feeling unmotivated to do anything and you realise this has been increasing significantly over time. Gym attendance is non-existent. You have been turning down social invites and your hobbies do not seem as exciting anymore. Essentially, your mind and your body are telling you something important. Instead of acknowledging how you truly feel, you ignore the cues and choose to brush it off as a funk that will eventually run its course.
Picture this: a sink constantly clogged with gunk has been slowing down water drainage. Your plumber says you need new pipes, but it is far easier to pour Drano or other chemicals to get rid of the yucky stuff. Better yet, you might use a plunger to speed up the process. This is your transient solution – i.e. you are not dealing with the root cause of the problem, but rather scratching the surface. You will come to learn that this only expedites the process until you encounter the same problem again.
A clogged sink is just one way of looking at it. Substantially, it is critical to assess and recognize a red flag when you see, feel, or experience it, as this decision will dictate how you respond to such situations. A great strategy to practice involves using responsible language instead of blaming language. Here, you are “naming it to tame it” by identifying your triggers rather than pointing the finger at other factors. Use “I” statements to communicate how you are feeling; for example: “I am feeling angry and I need some space”. “I am feeling overwhelmed and I need a
break”. Once you are aware of how you feel, you can evaluate what you need to balance your emotional scale. After all, you are the captain of your own emotional sailboat.
Remember, we are all human at the end of the day, so it is only natural for our emotions to be all over the place at different moments in time. Our responses are not always going to be kind, polite and perfect. Yes, you might yell at someone a couple of times; however, it is crucial to self-reflect and remain aware of your triggers – i.e. acknowledge how they make you feel and develop healthy coping strategies to manage in those situations. Patience is key here and focus on what works best for you!
Stacey Karuhanga is a registered Social Worker in Canada. She holds a Master’s degree in Social Work (MSW), specializing in Mental Health and Health. She has experience working with infants, children and youth who have emotional, behavioural and social difficulties. Additionally, she has worked with adults living with mental illness and concurrent disorders. Stacey currently works as a Child and Family Therapist.