By: Kaleigh Nobbe, Clinical Intern
Kaleigh is a Clinical Intern, completing her Master of Art in Counseling at Northwestern University.
I am experiencing these emotions, so that means it must be true. Right?
Though I will agree with you that emotions may tell a truth, this does not always mean it needs to be your truth. You can disagree with your emotions, just like you can disagree with another person’s opinion. To demonstrate what I am talking about, I would like to introduce you to “Em,” otherwise known as your emotions.
Much like another person, we cannot control Em, but we can control how we react to them. We can feel Em in our body, sometimes like a weight holding us down or maybe providing a strong punch to the gut. When this happens, we might want to yell out and say “Woah, that hurt! Get away from me!” We may even get angry that Em has been treating us this way and show that anger, so everyone knows what pain you’re experiencing. However, Em will keep coming back. Maybe it’s time we take a look at Em and consider why this has been happening. Often, we think of emotions as good or bad – right or wrong – but what if they just want to be acknowledged. Maybe they want a little attention or they’re trying to protect you. Our emotions exist whether we want to see them or not. Though Em can sometimes feel like a bully, maybe we can change something to help them work with us instead of against us.
We can acknowledge them:
“I see you there, disgust.”
We can validate them:
“Hey sadness, it is disappointing that you had that experience.”
We can choose how to react:
“Fear, this is not an appropriate time and we will talk about this later.”
Our emotions are instinctual and they occur for many reasons. It is what we choose to do with them that determines the outcome. Will you act on the emotion or reflect on what this emotion is trying to tell you? It is quite possible that we haven’t been listening to the needs of these emotions and instead misinterpreting what they are trying to say. After so many encounters with the same emotions without change, you can create an automatic response, making it more difficult to recognize what your emotion is asking you for. The change happens when we acknowledge, validate, and choose what our next step is with that emotional experience.