The Keys to Dealing With Hard Times and Challenging Emotions


Life's like a box of chocolates... You never know what you'll get

You bite into one and you're not quite sure what's there -- emotions are like that too.

Feelings can be confusing... Emotions are like a box of chocolates (thank you Mr. Gump) -- they're certainly not always what "you see is what you get." I imagine you've "bitten" into a few surprises over the years.

We experience something and we think we will feel a certain way and yet we don't. Or something happens and it catches us off guard and we're navigating through new dark emotional waters.

It would be so helpful if we feel one emotion exclusively, very easily recognize it, form logical thoughts and actions based on the feeling and move on.

"I feel sad, I feel frustrated, I feel angry, I feel disillusioned."

Sometimes emotions are very clear and when we can identify them and allow ourselves to feel them it can be easier to process them. However at times, especially when we're navigating something that's very challenging they're usually confusing and off putting.

Tough emotions are not unlike biting into an unidentified piece of chocolate out of one of those cheap boxes of a variety of chocolates; we react -- "EWWW, what is this? This is awful!"

If only we could spit it out like a nasty piece of cheap chocolate and be done.

Perhaps we experience an odd combination of emotions such as:

- gratitude and sorrow after someone has died after suffering a great deal.
- enjoying the peace after a tumultuous relationship ends, yet still longing for the person.

Emotions might not seem to matter so much if we were in control of them, but often we react based on the thoughts that arise when we feel strong emotions. At times this can result in discharging our pain onto another and leaves us regretting not being more proactive rather than reactive.

Its not until we really realize what's going on with our emotions that we can then start to take control of how we think and then what we ultimately decide to do.

Feelings can be confusing, and if we're not aware of what we're feeling and then give ourselves permission to feel the emotions -- this confusion or emotional "hook" drives the busses of our lives -- most often, reactively so.

If the feelings become too overwhelming, we then try to self preserve, to lock them up, skim over them, or numb over the feelings -- which can lead to a whole other can of worms -- depression, anxiety, dependencies, addictions, to name a few.

Some of the keys to processing emotions in order to increase our understanding and clarity are:

1. Curiosity -- Get curious, without judgment, as to what you might be feeling

Why am I feeling this way?

What's setting me off?

2. Space -- We need time to process what we feel, what impact those emotions are having and to come to terms with what we want and need as a result of our internal workings.

Some ways to do this is going for a walk, journaling, meditating, going for a drive, take a day off work.

3. Support -- Talk to someone who will be non-judgmental about our experience.

4. Permission to Feel -- Feel the goopy, messy feelings.

Cry, laugh, be angry, feel frustrated, perhaps all in a span of a few minutes -- recognizing and releasing the feelings takes courage, but there is relief on the other side.

5. Be Mindful-- Just because you feel a certain way and have subsequent thoughts does not
mean that you are those thoughts.

Don't take them on -- sit with them and observe them

Emotions can be overwhelming, even feel crazy at times -- just because it feels crazy does not mean you are, you may feel anxious -- it's a feeling it's not all that you are.

Trust the process of feeling a range of emotions without being too attached to the emotions themselves.

6. Know that you ARE Normal -- we tend to judge ourselves so harshly. We keep asking ourselves:

What's wrong with me?
I shouldn't still feel like this?

We feel flawed and set apart, ashamed -- we're all human we all feel like this from time to time.

Everyone feels, everyone has there own process and you are not the only one that has ever felt like this (believe me!).

7. Be Kind -- Oh please -- be kind to yourself, speak to yourself like you would a good friend, we're all trying to navigate this one messy life.

We wish life was a simple box of chocolates with one of those simple guides so we can pick what we like and steer clear of what we don't -- but when the chocolate melts and the box gets chewed on and you're left trying to make sense of it all -- know that you've got this and the only way around this mess is actually through it.

I promise you that you're creating more room for the delicious chocolaty emotions that we long for like peace, contentment and joy -- to name a few.