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Mastering Dealing with Emotions

It’s important to allow yourself to acknowledge every emotion. I can’t tell you how many
times clients say to me, “You’ll think I’m terrible, but I was feeling such and such.” And I
always reply, “I don’t think you’re terrible. I think you have the hang of what to do with
feelings which is to know what you feel.” Here’s why it’s critical to do so. Our emotional
world is the only place where we can be completely free. Inside our heads or hearts, to
speak metaphorically, is a land of liberty. After all, you can’t actually say or do whatever
you want without experiencing repercussions. But acknowledging what you feel simply
gives you information—as long as you don’t dwell on upsetting feelings. Sometimes that
information is what to do with the feeling—explore it or ditch it—but how can you know
what action to take if you don’t have a clue what you’re feeling?

For example, I have a client who has a chronic illness and sometimes feels upset and
frustrated with it. At these times, she’s bummed that she may have to deal with her
illness her whole life. Other times, usually when she’s feeling better, she enjoys life and
goes quite merrily on her way. Her husband can’t tolerate when she’s feeling down (it
triggers his helplessness to stop her pain), so she usually keeps mum when she’s in
distress because his telling her to look on the bright side feels invalidating to her. She
wishes he’d allow her to sometimes simply be down and occasionally openly even pity
herself. Knowing she always rebounds from her distress, she feels better when she
acknowledges what’s going on inside her and can then move on.

Fortunately, she believes she can have any darned feelings she wants about her
condition and understands that acknowledging and identifying her emotions gives her
information about how she’s feeling in the moment and reinforces being an authentic
person. It’s one thing, she says, to pretend she feels a certain way with other people like
her husband but she refuses to lie to herself. She knows she can experience distress
without dwelling on it, which is healthy and helpful, so she goes with the flow.

Why not acknowledge what you’re feeling? Give an emotion its due rather than restrict
yourself to experiencing only certain types of (pleasant) feelings. Humans have a range
of emotions for a reason. You need not express every sentiment, but do give each one
a name. Too many people think that if they can’t share what they’re going through, they
don’t want to feel it. Or they fear that if they experience an uncomfortable emotion, they
won’t be able to shake it. Experiment with acknowledging and identifying feelings
without giving them power over you. That’s the ticket to mastering emotions.