16 Nov Q & A with Dr Happy – How do I NOT let my feelings overwhelm me?
In another episode of “Ask Dr Happy”, this week’s selected question is from Margot who asks …
How do I define my feelings without letting them define me? How do I accept my feelings without allowing them to overwhelm me?
This is such a great and important question, and my response is …
To begin with, it’s worth noting (as I’ve done MANY times before) that it’s OK not to be OK all the time. That is, there will be times when you over-identify with your feelings, there will be times when you feel overwhelmed.
That’s OK. That’s normal. That’s human. We all feel like that at times. But what we don’t want is to feel like that TOO OFTEN. Or to allow this to happen for TOO LONG.
The next part of the answer, then, is imbedded within the question. And it comes down to defining how we feel.
Sometimes called recognising or labelling, defining how we feel, ideally as specifically as possible, has been shown to be very beneficial. Defining or labelling our emotions makes them more specific and more tangible, which then reduces the chances they’ll be overwhelming (because they are, after all, just feelings).
So, if we can then recognise our emotions and accept or allow them, we’ll be well on our way to getting on top of them and hopefully, to rebounding back to more positive emotions such as happiness or contentment.
What comes next, though, is key. What we can do after these preceding steps is the following few things:
- reassure ourselves that we are not what we feel; at least not entirely. We are partly what we feel, but we’re also so much more. We’re also how we think and what we do in response to these experiences so if anything, our emotions are only part of who we are
- more so, our emotions are not always accurate. Just because we feel hopeless doesn’t mean we are hopeless; just because we feel out of control, doesn’t mean we have no control. Reminding ourselves, then, that feelings are not facts is important here
- and finally, keeping things in perspective is essential. Even if you feel you have no, or limited control or agency right now, doesn’t mean there won’t be something you can do in an hour, a day, or a week. Even if the current situation seems hopeless, doesn’t mean there won’t be some hope around the corner. And even if one situation in your life seems terrible, it doesn’t mean everything is terrible OR that it will remain terrible for ever.
That, therefore, makes up your answer, Margot. Define your feelings, accept your feelings, but keep your feelings specific and in context, and know that there’s much more to you, and to your life, than your current emotions!