Make Peace With Your Emotions: Stop Doing These 3 Things
Muddled By Your Thoughts and Emotions?
Getting caught in a jumble of thoughts and emotions is stressful and disorienting. If you’re having trouble sorting your emotions from your
thoughts, you’re not alone. In fact, people often confuse their emotions with their feelings and thoughts. However, often they aren’t aware they’re doing it. Does this sound like you? Are you someone who’d like to make peace with your emotions?
What’s Behind the Befuddlement
While stress can play a major role, many people simply lack adequate discernment and clarity. I see this all the time in my role as a coach and energy healer. And, it doesn’t surprise me because western culture downplays the importance of emotional competency.
You’re less apt to get stuck, confused, or entangled by your emotions, feelings, and thoughts if you can tell which is which and why each has arisen at a particular time. Moreover, you’d be able to clarify your thinking, improve your relationships, and make better, more authentic choices. This is how you can make peace with your emotions.
3 Ways to Make Peace With Your Emotions
There are many ways to explore your thoughts, feelings, and emotions. For example, inner work such as Focusingand Internal Family Systems, and thought work such as The Work and Neural-Linguistic Programming. Here, we focus on just three simple steps or actions you can take immediately all on your own.
We’ll also discuss the why behind each because knowing why you’re taking a step is what will motivate you and galvanize the process. This will undoubtedly make a big difference.
1. Stop Confusing Thoughts and Feelings With Your Emotions
First, let’s define and distinguish between emotions, thoughts, and feelings. Understanding what they are and their purpose will go a long way toward building your capacity to identify what’s what, sort out your confusion, and inspire appreciation for all of your emotions, not just the so-called “positive” ones.
That said, you’ll find a lack of complete agreement about these terms among experts and specialists. Still, most researchers, specialists, and practitioners distinctly demarcate them in one way or another as a matter of utility and necessity. (See A. Damasio, G Claxton, A Fogel, and Karla Mclaren as excellent sources.) However, for our purposes here, somewhat fuzzy borders aren’t a significant obstacle.
What Are Emotions
In daily use and ordinary conversation, emotions and feelings are used interchangeably. In reality, they’re related, but definitely not the same.
Emotions are subconscious signals of significant change internal and external to the body and contribute to the activation of neurotransmitters, hormones, and other biophysical processes that arouse appropriate bodily reactions to address the change. For example, anger detects personal boundary crossings. It can mount from a subtle sense of discomfort and progress into an eruption all the while signaling to you more and more urgently to adjust your boundaries.
While some experts say that emotions are wholly subconscious, others assert that some aspects of your emotions can be consciously perceived as felt senses or bodily sensations. These signals are critical contributors to emotional competency. Like the constant motion of the world and human body, an emotion is a dynamic energy flow that creates a trail of sensations.
As natural biological necessities, emotions are neither positive nor negative. More accurately, they are your critical allies in the creation of health, wellness, survival, growth, enlivenment, and fulfillment. When you sense into an emotional state with curiosity and compassion, you’re bound to find helpful and life-affirming advice.
What Are Feelings
Feelings are the conscious awareness and perception of uninhibited bodily processes and sensations your emotions engender. The awareness is simply objective data and nonvalent (neither positive nor negative).
The perception, on the other hand, relates to how you view your experience and the context that induced it. Your current physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual status; previous experiences; thoughts; beliefs; and future expectations all contribute to the qualia or the personal and uniquely perceptive nature of your feelings.
Feelings are not the same as emotions and often perception can cloud your awareness of the underlying emotion. To illustrate, when asking clients what they sense on the inside — viscerally or as a felt sense — they often blurt out something like” anxiety.” When asked how they know it’s anxiety or how they sense the anxiety, they present an underlying story or justification. That is, they get into their thoughts and beliefs, and label (or mislabel) their feelings, hence their emotions.
Feelings are not the same as thoughts and beliefs either. Yet, if you pay close attention to what you and others say you’ll notice the all too common use of thoughts in the place of feelings or emotions. For example, “I think he’s mean to me,” instead of “I’m feeling hurt by his actions.” Of particular importance here is feeling stated as thoughts are typically open to debate, sparking emotional confusion.
What Are Thoughts and Beliefs
A thought is a conscious idea produced by thinking. Alternately, I like to think of it as a language-based interpretation and expression of what you experienced. A belief is simply a thought or group of thoughts you hold to be true whether they are in fact true or not. Taken together they all significantly contribute to the formation of your mindset, which in turn, shapes your perception.
Among beliefs are your limiting beliefs, which keep you from moving forward. They somehow constrain thinking, prevent you from seeing opportunities and limit your choices. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to identify limiting beliefs from others.
But, what’s important to consider here, is both your thoughts and your beliefs — limiting or not — can get in the way of correctly identifying and listening to your emotions, especially when they embed in your perception and thus cloud your awareness or sense of your emotions. From this point, you get stuck in your head. This is typically the source of your emotional entanglement.
2. Stop Trying to Control Your Emotions and Make Peace With Your Emotions
When you try to control your emotions, you block them. Blocking is a bad idea because you’ll most certainly inadvertently intensify them. Since they’re trying to signal something important to you, they’ll keep signaling, get stronger, call on other emotions in the hope of being heard (e.g., anger may step in for heartbreak), and ultimately become entangled. So, stop trying to control your emotions.
Instead, consider them important signals welling up from within the body. They’re an important way your embodied brain communicates with you. But, remember, your emotions are not about thinking. They are the sense of what is. Notice them. Get curious. Stay with them. Make friends with them. Compassionately listen to them.
Emotions are by definition a signal of change somewhere within your external or internal environment. These signals help you navigate and rebalance. Hence they’re your allies. Allowing your emotions to flow through you can be a bit unsettling because change and uncertainty can be uncomfortable. But if you feel overwhelmed, enlist whatever support you need.
3. Stop Letting Others Tell You What Emotion Your Experiencing
When you have emotional competency, there’s just no one who knows better than you which emotion you’re feeling. The only one who can sense inside yourself is you. That sense reveals your true emotional state.
Parents, siblings, friends, teachers, cultural norms, mass media, and social media have a tendency to label you, your expressions, and your behaviors. Maybe you were a hothead, cry baby, rebel, perfect angel, etc. These labels have a way of creating beliefs and working into your psyche.
It’s important to remember when someone is telling you how you feel, they could be manipulating you, lying, projecting, or simply wrong. You are the only one who knows how you are on the inside.
Plus, in some ways what they are telling you about your emotions, tells you some important information about their emotions related to the topic or situation. Are they experiencing an emotional muddle? They could be entangled in their own emotions, feelings, thoughts, or beliefs.
Building Emotional Competency to Make Peace With Your Emotions
Remembering to take these three steps will take practice because you’ll probably think about it once you’ve already gotten triggered, and at that point, you’ll be wrapped up in this entanglement. Still, each time you can step back and correctly identify your thoughts, feelings, and emotions you’re likely to gain more and more sense of clarity, ease, empowerment, and control. In other words, the more you practice, the easier it gets. Furthermore, it’ll become a habit. It’ll be just the way you are in the world: at peace with your emotions.
Of course, compassion and curiosity play a big role in this self-reflective and transformational process. And, when frustrated and befuddled, they don’t come automatically or easily. You have to make room for them by noticing the subtle and not-so-subtle cues. I’m convinced through study and experience that without a bit of these two sentiments, change will be tough or impossible. Thus, it’s wise to cultivate them as well. That gets easier with practice.
There’s a lot more to your emotions and their influence within you. Still, this is a great start. Take some time to learn about emotions, how they come about, help you navigate through your life, and positively influence your thinking and decision-making.
But, for now, focus on clearing a pathway. Let go of three common behaviors typically lurking behind emotional conundrums and open yourself to more. Clarity and unjumbled, authentic responses will come with practice.
Patricia Bonnard, PhD, ACC is a leadership and life coach and energy healer. She blends conventional coaching, embodied practices, and energy healing in ways that best suit the needs and preferences of her clients. She offers virtual and in-person sessions and workshops to workplaces and the general public. See more and contact her at Starchaser Integrated Coaching and Energy Healing.