Some days it takes all the attention we have to just figure out what it is that we are feeling, much less what we want to do about it. As a therapist, I want to honor that. This directive to say what you are feeling and speak your truth and be clear about what you need – not always easily achieved.
So what can you do when your thoughts are buzzing your head like angry dragonflies and your emotions are a jumbled ball of contradictory feelings and your intentions…who the hell knows?
First you can slow down. There is no rush to respond in the moment, unless the moment is a literal emergency and then you must trust your instincts. Stop talking and take a breath. Take another breath. Get out of your spinning head for a moment by simply looking around you. Find something beautiful in the space around you and look at it as though you were going to need to describe it later. Start to feel your body; it is there giving you structure. Move around a bit. OK, now that things are a bit slower…
You can identify the emotions without trying to figure them out. Just focus on the real basic emotions at first. You can say, “I am feeling angry.” Or “I am feeling really sad.” Or “I am feeling scared” Just start there. Don’t rush to explain why you are feeling that way, to yourself or anyone else, at the moment. Don’t justify your feelings by focusing on what that jerk did to make you feel that way, for now just identify the emotion or emotions. Just give yourself a bit of time to acknowledge those feelings as they are. Remind yourself that whatever you are feeling it is not going to last forever, it does not define you, and it is ok to feel it.
If you are with someone you care about, you might start by saying “I am feeling really sad right now and I want you to know that before we go further in talking about this.” This might help you avoid getting caught up in mental gymnastics and verbal sparring that is fed by unnamed emotions. Sharing how you feel also is an act of trust and openness and can soften the conversation for both of you. You can also say, “I need some time to figure out why I am having such strong emotions. I will come back to this conversation when I have more insight.”
Then give yourself a space to process all the thoughts and feelings and how they have gotten combined in such a potent mixture today. It is best if you can do this in a way in which you will not be held accountable for all that you are feeling in the moment. So talk it out with a neutral person who can understand conflicting and even irrational emotions sometimes need to be aired out. If you don’t have a person like that available, journal to yourself or talk to a mirror or close your eyes and talk to your divine or a departed loved one or a wise part of yourself. Clarity will come but it may take some dedicated time to explore the layers. Try to stay open to yourself.
We all get hit by big, confusing, overwhelming reactions sometimes. It helps to know that you don’t have to get stuck there or to have it all figured out immediately. Asking yourself, “What AM I feeling?!!” is actually a great start.