Did you ever get taught how to manage your emotions, or how to recognise them when they come up?
Chances are the answer is no. Emotional literacy skills don’t get taught at school, even at a higher level like university. So this kind of emotional education has to be sought out through reading and specific courses. And then there’s so much conflicting information, it’s hard to know what’s what.
Studies have shown that people who are emotionally skilled perform better in schools, have better relationships, and engage less frequently in unhealthy behaviours. So why is emotional literacy not being taught to those that need it (i.e. everyone)?
If you’re wondering why your emotions continue to overwhelm you, it’s probably because a) emotions are designed to be warning signals and designed to be almost impossible to ignore and b) you haven’t yet learnt how to counteract this outdated system so that you’re in control of your emotions rather than the other way round.
I had to study at postgraduate level to learn all about emotions and become clear on how they need to be managed so that they don’t create mental health problems. And it’s not rocket science. This information needs to be available to everyone. Of all ages.
Emotions are meant to be temporary. They are supposed to act as a signal that something is not quite right in your environment, so you can react to it and stay safe. When this happens, your emotions are designed to pass on. But sometimes this doesn’t happen e.g. because you weren’t able to feel them fully or because you did something that stopped their natural flow. At other times, whilst the initial feeling can pass, if you respond to yourself with criticism or lack of empathy, thinking:
‘Why do I feel this way?’
‘There’s something wrong with me’
‘I can’t deal with life as well as other people’
then further stress and anxiety can follow. And if you don’t have the tools to properly deal with these emotions, they can easily turn into vicious cycles that perpetuate themselves over and over.
What starts as a problem can therefore turn into anxiety or low mood if your attempts at dealing with it don’t work out. Often our solution turns into the problem itself e.g. when avoiding the thing that scares us results in us never having the opportunity to see that what we fear doesn’t actually happen.
If you don’t understand your feelings and where they come from, then that in itself can cause even more stress and anxiety. Which can manifest as feeling like you can’t control your emotions, snapping at your kids when they don’t listen, feeling anxious in social situations or struggling to be the gentle parent you want to be.
Gaining control over your emotions
We have to teach ourselves how to manage and understand our own emotional experience first. This doesn’t mean you won’t ever feel any negative emotions, that’s not life and we can’t control what happens to us. But we can control what we do next. And that’s what makes the difference between pain and suffering. Whilst we can never get rid of pain in life, we can manage things differently so that we don’t suffer.
And once you’ve learnt these skills yourself, you can pass them on to your children so that they can grow up to have a healthier relationship with their emotions and don’t get stuck in the same patterns that you did. Once you understand and can manage your own emotions, you can help them to feel confident that they can deal with life’s challenges when they arise; so that they know how to feel good about themselves, how to hold their own boundaries, deal with difficult situations when they arise and know how to manage their fears and achieve what they want regardless.
Understanding is always the first step. Understanding what creates your emotions and where they came from and then being clear on how to respond to them so that they can flow and pass when they need to. And it’s as simple as learning the ABC (kind of).
If you’re ready to learn everything you need to about emotions and how to manage them, send us a message at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can show you how to get started.