The Leaf In The Stream: How To Honor Your Emotions In Times of Difficulty
By Kim Loftis
One night my friend Emma (not her real name) called me very distraught. She had had an unpleasant argument with her husband, and felt very hurt and dejected. She could feel herself becoming sad and depressed, and her hurt and anger continued to build up within her. "I just want to hit something." She cried in frustration.
All of us, at one time or another, have had experiences similar to Emma's, in which we have a difficult encounter and our anger and frustration remain pent up inside, growing and growing until these emotions threaten to explode out of us in a fit of rage. No one feels pleasant when confronted with a situation such as this. Whether it's an argument with a loved one, the loss of an important document or much loved object, or feelings of self-ridicule and frustration, we just want to put the negativity behind us somehow. Under such circumstances, two things may occur... we can hold our boiling emotions in check, or we can blow up and berate ourselves or someone else. How in the world can we rectify such a situation without going to either negative extreme?
In order to keep our anger, frustration or criticism from overwhelming us or pouring out and affecting someone else as well, we must learn to honor the emotions. By honoring our emotions, I simply mean accepting them, feeling them fully, and then letting them go. For instance, after Emma's unpleasant encounter with her husband, she chose to accept the fact that she was hurt, angry and upset about the event that had occurred between them.
Let me give you an analogy that may help you to understand my point more clearly. Imagine that you're sitting by a crystal blue stream, which is surrounded by large old oak trees. Now, in your mind's eye, watch as a leaf from one of the oaks falls into the laughing stream. Notice the leaf floating there, and then watch as it gently floats away downstream, disappearing from sight.
To honor your emotions is a lot like watching that leaf in the stream. You notice your emotions, become fully aware of them, and then gently and lovingly allow them to float away from you. They aren't bad and you aren't wrong to have them. It's holding on to them that can sometimes prove unhealthy. By honoring your emotional states, you'll be able to put yourself in a much healthier, and often happier state of being.
When you find yourself in a situation where you feel angry or hurt, really allow yourself to feel and work through that emotional roller coaster. Say to yourself, "Okay I'm angry (substitute your own emotional state or states). I accept that. I choose to feel and honor that I'm angry right now. That's okay."
Spend a few moments and really allow yourself to be in your emotional state. Don't analyze or condemn your feelings as bad or wrong. Just experience them consciously for a few moments. Be aware of how you're feeling. Don't worry, I'm certainly not telling you to wallow in self-pity or anything like that. Only do this for a few minutes, or, at the most, a couple of hours.
After really "living there" in your emotions for a little while, ask yourself if you are ready to release them. You may want to ask for help from God, an angel or guide, etc, in order to release this emotional state, in order to move into a state of peace. Ask yourself if you're able to forgive yourself or the other person or people (if others are involved). Through honoring your emotions, you create a space for personal growth, self-awareness and love and forgiveness to enter in.
If you are able to honor your emotions, you will avoid the extremes of either allowing them to be bottled up inside you, or of bursting out and hurting someone else or hurting yourself even further. If your upsetting situation involves another person, as in Emma's case with her husband, I'd encourage you to wait until after you've honored and released your pent up emotions before trying to resolve the situation with the other person. This will keep you from growing even more angry, sad or frustrated when you speak with them. Of course, if your situation does involve another person, it would be ideal if all parties involved could use the "honoring" process before finding a resolution to their conflict. However, sometimes this simply isn't feasible, but even through doing your own "honoring" process, the situation, and your own peace of mind, should be helped considerably.
Through the process of honoring her emotions, Emma was able to later have a rational and productive conversation with her husband. They were able to work everything out smoothly. I hope you'll find this process helpful for you, as well.