When was the last time you had a bad feeling – something like a lump in your throat, or a headache, or a sinking feeling in your chest? It comes out of the blue and catches us off guard. When something unexpected happens, we get thrown off and get carried away by ‘feeling bad’ as we put it. It’s an uncomfortable feeling to have – so we bottle it up, suppress it, forget all about it and move on until another event triggers all of this back – stronger than ever.
Why does it come back with a vengeance? It’s because, underneath the ‘feeling bad’, there’s actually a horde of emotions, ranging for anger to sadness, fear to anxiety. When something doesn’t go right for a group of us, each person feels bad, but that bad feeling means something different for each person. Unless we process that, it stays unresolved and lurks out of sight (but not out of mind).
When something causes us to feel bad, we need to take a moment right then to identify what that bad feeling is. Stay with the feeling instead of pretending that it doesn’t exist. Since it is hard to think of a specific word that matches our feeling, there’s a trick that we can use. Open your phone and pick specific Whatsapp emojis that best match the emotion you feel. That helps put a label on the feeling, at least temporarily.
Secondly, ask yourself the following:
- Is my feeling a reflection of me, or of the situation?
- Can I do something about it?
Now, think of an emoji that you would like to be at. Evidently, it is hard to go from 🤬to , but it is easier to go from 🤬to , and then from to . So, choose an emoji state you’d like to be at in the next 10 minutes.
Next, think of an activity that you can do that can get you there. It can be deep breathing, it can be treating yourself at that moment with a chocolate (for those with a sweet tooth) or a coffee (for caffeine lovers), or promising yourself a dinner out after work (for those who get hangry). Sometimes, thinking about delayed gratification is as effective as instant pleasure.
Contrary to popular practice, negative emotions are not taboo. They exist to tip us off that something isn’t quite right – but it is up to us to get to the bottom of that feeling. We are allowed to have and feel them. Rather than clumping them up together, let us divide and conquer!
This article has been written by Ms Nandita Seshadri, a therapist, and integral part of Adveka Foundation.