One of the most damaging things we can experience is the invalidation of our emotions from others. It’s painful, confusing and leaves us feeling more alone than anything else.
When people tell you to quit feeling something, it’s like telling you not to feel rain falling on your head. The only way to quit feeling something is to divert your attention. Although this sometimes works, other times it is nearly impossible. Telling a person with her foot in a fire to divert her attention would be impossible.
Sometimes the problem is people cannot sense their body changes. To regulate your emotions, you have to be pretty good at sensing your body. If you have been shutting off your sensations for years, this can be very difficult.
Protip: try progressive muscle relaxation to increase awareness of your body changes.
In the aftereffects, intense emotions can be very powerful, and can become locked in our memory, our thoughts, our ability to think, and our physical functioning behaviour.
Emotions love themselves and can turn into a feedback loop.
Emotions can be self-validating, and our emotional reactions can give us information about the situation: signals or alarms. When carried to an extreme, emotions are treated as facts. But… (say it with me) … feelings are not facts!
So, we get what’s called secondary emotions, and this is where stuff gets meta!
Emotional reactions to primary emotions, or feeling about feeling, will confuse the picture and make identification of primary emotions very difficult. The primary emotion is overshadowed by the secondary emotion, so its harder to solve the problem of the primary emotion. This leads to a limitless chain reaction of distressing secondary emotions and much more pain than the original.
We must learn to identify the primary emotion and learn to cope with that feeling before it escalates.
Beware of ambivalence!
More than one emotional reaction to the same event means each emotion pulls you in a different direction and/or makes you want to do something different.
It is possible you have been dealing with overwhelming emotions for a long time and you might feel frustrated and hopeless about learning how to control your emotional reactions. But please remember, although it might be difficult to control your primary emotional reactions, there’s potential to learn to control your secondary responses, as well as how you choose to cope with them.