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Work WITH your emotions rather than suppressing them

Work WITH your emotions rather than suppressing them
Whatever we may think about them, suppressing them is likely to do more harm than good.


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Emotions can act in our favour

Emotions can act in our favour
  • Generally, emotions keep us safe. Feeling fear will help us survive a threatening environment, and feeling love helps us form companionship.
  • Emotions can also be manipulated. It includes the act of "posturing" - making one's body look larger than it is - to seem more threatening. Humans instinctively respond to the neonatal features of babies which encourages us to protect them.
  • We can alter our emotional display so as to elicit an appropriate response. For example, the teacher who is hugely frustrated, but greets with a smile.

But emotional labour can cause burnout, manipulation of emotion can cause confusion and hurt, and showing off will not always achieve the results we desire.




Managing emotions

Emotions such as pain and sadness may be difficult to contain, but nothing to be ashamed of. However, sometimes one may prefer to hide one's feelings if it can cause one further vulnerability.

Burying negative emotions can lead to several mental health issues. Avoiding the person, people, or place, which causes the discomfort can lead to isolation, social anxiety, and depression. Learning ways to feel and safely express emotions appropriately forms a great model for healthy behaviours.



Recognise and label the emotion

When you recognise an emotion, label it and accept that it is OK to feel it. You may want to write down how you feel and why you feel this way.

This type of expression can have a therapeutic effect, and serves as a reminder of the trigger situation when you are ready to deal with it.



Restore a sense of emotional balance

Quick ways to manage emotional stress is by watching a funny video, listening to music, crying, singing, or changing your environment. Sometimes it can be helpful to channel the stress response into physical exercise, or to change the temperature immediately, such as splashing cold water on your face.

Try to refrain from unhealthy soothing methods such as comfort eating, drinking, recreational drugs, and avoiding the situation entirely.



Address the root cause of your emotions

  • Try to have difficult discussions when you are not very emotional. Sometimes you need to walk away to regain control (tell the other person you need a moment), then return to the discussion.
  • Write down your agenda for the discussion.
  • Hold the discussion somewhere neutral if possible.
  • Have an idea of what you want as a solution. Be flexible - and then listen.
  • If you can, try to avoid blame language, "You were mean..." Instead, focus on what you can control. "When you said X, I felt..."



Suppressing emotions as a coping strategy

The following behaviours may indicate that you or your loved ones are suppressing an emotion.

  • Not wanting to talk about something. Sometimes physically leaving the room when the subject or person is mentioned.
  • Getting angry suddenly and out of proportion to what was asked/said.
  • Talking in extremes e.g. "everyone" or "no-one."
  • Avoiding emotional language. Using the word "interesting" as opposed to "hurt", "sad" or "rejected" and the use of joking/humour.



A quick mindfulness exercise to start accepting your emotions

  • Visualise a time you felt excitement.
  • Think of a time you felt anger.
  • Picture a time you felt love.
  • Think of a time you felt sadness.
  • Visualise a time you felt proud.
  • Think of a time you felt fear.
  • Picture a time you felt happy.

This exercise takes you through many emotions. Then ask yourself to recognise where you feel each emotion. End with an affirmation which focuses on accepting them. Recognise where you feel those emotions as it can give you insight into the emotion arising so you can manage it before it becomes overwhelming.





They are basal responses that begin in the subcortical areas of the brain responsible for producing biochemical reactions to environmental stimuli that have a direct impact on our physical state.&n...


Feelings are preceded by emotions and tend to be our reactions to them. Emotions are a more generalized experience across humans, but feelings are more subjective and influenced by our personal experiences and interpretations, thus they are harder to measure.

Negative Emotions

They can be defined as unpleasant or unhappy emotions evoked in individuals to express a negative effect towards something.

Although some are labeled negative, all emotions are normal to the human experience. And it’s important to understand when and why negative emotions might arise, and develop positive behaviors to address them.

6 more ideas

Emotional clarity

It means that we have a good understanding of how we feel emotionally. 

Label your emotions

Use plain language. The more fluent you are with real emotional language, the more clearly you will be able to think about how you’re feeling.

Clarify your emotions

Get used to the idea of emotional complexity. When we feel upset, we're not feeling one single emotion. We are usually experiencing a blend of many emotions.

Training ourselves to look for and see this emotional complexity is key to better understanding ourselves when we’re upset and moving on in a healthy way.

The Positive Lexicography Project

The Positive Lexicography Project

It aims to offer a more nuanced understanding of ourselves, by capturing many ways of expressing good feelings from across the world.
It is directed by Tim Lomas at the University of East London...

Highly specific positive feelings

... that depend on particular circumstances:

  • Desbundar (Portuguese): to shed one’s inhibitions in having fun
  • Tarab (Arabic): a musically induced state of ecstasy or enchantment
  • Shinrin-yoku (Japanese): the relaxation gained from bathing in the forest, figuratively or literally
  • Gigil (Tagalog): the irresistible urge to pinch or squeeze someone because they are loved or cherished
  • Yuan bei (Chinese): a sense of complete and perfect accomplishment
  • Iktsuarpok (Inuit): the anticipation one feels when waiting for someone, whereby one keeps going outside to check if they have arrived.

Complex and bittersweet experiences

  • Natsukashii (Japanese): a nostalgic longing for the past, with happiness for the fond memory, yet sadness that it is no longer
  • Wabi-sabi (Japanese): a “dark, desolate sublimity” centered on transience and imperfection in beauty
  • Saudade (Portuguese): a melancholic longing or nostalgia for a person, place or thing that is far away either spatially or in time – a vague, dreaming wistfulness for phenomena that may not even exist
  • Sehnsucht (German): “life-longings”, an intense desire for alternative states and realisations of life, even if they are unattainable.