Welcome back all you Women in Medicine. I’m super excited to have you back and today we’re going to be talking about a super important topic which is not just your emotions but your identity. Too often I find the people identify with their emotions and this is where you might be getting confused. So we’re here to set you straight.
When it comes to your emotions you might notice that you tend to identify with them and that’s when you are saying things that include the words, “I am,” which is then followed by some sort of feeling. It might be that you tell yourself, “I am sad,” “I am anxious,” “I am angry.” Notice that when you say these statements, it makes me associate yourself with those feeling. And this can be a bit of a slippery slope because if you start to see yourself as that emotion, then it’s really hard for you to separate who you are from what you’re feeling. It can lead to you having a hard time controlling your emotions. So what we want to do is get to a point where we experience our emotions and we’re able to control them. Today we’re going to talk about how to do just that.
I’ve already mentioned how we label ourselves usings words like “I am” and then we fill in the blank about whichever emotion it is that we experience. One thing to note is not to label yourself and the reason for that is that your emotions are something that you have, not who you are. Again I’m going to repeat that because this is important. You are not your emotions and when you associate yourself with those emotions, you create a false sense of self.
The truth is you can’t be your emotions. You are simply aware that they exist within you and this is an important distinction. When you experience sadness, you can be aware that you have certain manifestations of that sadness. You feel sluggish perhaps. You are maybe grieving about something that’s happened. You slow down and maybe are tearful. Those are all ways of describing what you’re experiencing and when you’re creating that gap between you and those emotions you have an opportunity to notice how they rise and subside. This is an important thing about emotions to know in general because too often we become overwhelmed with our feelings and that’s why more often than not we try to suppress them. It can feel kind of scary to have to feel that doesn’t it but if you can stay present with the emotions. What you will notice is that you’re experiencing something in this moment and that can be in your mind and in your body and it can can be some sort of physiological sensation or some sort of thought that’s popping up. That allows you to see how things move kind of like a wave through you.
Let’s take a look at a specific example. If you are experiencing sadness for instance, notice how feeling sad in this moment can be associated with certain kinds of thoughts and you can just witness those thoughts. And if you stick with it for a few minutes, you’ll notice that over time they start to subside. They kind of go away and your mind clears and you’re able to breathe again. This is a great indication that emotions are temporary and that you don’t have to be so afraid of them. You don’t have to feel like you’re stuck with them or be afraid that they’re going to overtake you. Simply noticing them and labeling them will help you keep the label off of you.
So for instance, if you’re noticing that your heart is pounding and you feel scared, instead of saying “I am scared,” you might say, “I’m noticing my heart pounding very quickly.” And then if you stay with that sensation of your heart pounding, you’ll notice that it calms down after a few minutes. And then you’ll be able to move on from that experience.
However when you tell yourself like things like “I am afraid” or “I am anxious,” then you might start tripping out in your mind. You might start creating all kinds of thoughts from that initial thought of “I am afraid” and what this does is it keeps you in the fear for a lot longer. It also leads you to seeing yourself as a person who is afraid or who has anxiety. It’s important to be able to step away from that and to create a space between you and the experience, to just focus in on awareness so you notice what is happening which provides that detachment. This is very different from suppression, but it allows you from that place to be able to control the emotions because they no longer overtake you.
As I just mentioned, you could experience your emotions in your body or in your mind. It’s important to be able to notice those things and it will give you something to focus on so you can get through whatever you’re feeling or thinking.
Let’s take a look at anxiety. Anxiety is an emotion that manifests for some people physically in the body. So if that’s you you might notice that again your heart rate might be up, that your heart is beating quickly, that you’re sweating or shaking. Maybe you feel nauseous or have that tightness in your stomach. Your shoulders might be tense. There’s all kinds of manifestations that might be occurring in your body. So instead of focusing on labeling yourself with that emotion, notice the sensations you feel in that moment.
For some people, anxiety manifests through a lot of worried thoughts. So if you are somebody who worries about the future, do you find yourself feeling anxious when you are facing uncertainty or when you cannot predict what’s going to happen next? Do you catastrophize and worry a lot about the worst possible case scenario? All of these might be examples of worried thought that you have in your mind and if you can identify those thoughts under the clusters of the unhelpful thinking pattern, such as catastrophizing or prediction, then you’re able to say to yourself, “There I go again. I am catastrophizing.” And when you notice what you’re doing as opposed to how you feel, you might be able to say to yourself, “l am catastrophizing right now” or “I am worrying about that,” which allows you to then stay with the worry, notice the thoughts, and then either breathe through it or just observe how it transmutes over time.
You might then also use some other techniques to help reduce the worry. You might challenge the thoughts and see how you can shift your mindset and by so doing, change how you feel.There are all kinds of ways in which you can come into a place of control over your internal experiences and it’s a way of feeling like you are in charge of your emotions and your mind as opposed to the other way around.
So to recap, here’s what you want to do. You want to avoid words like “I am” I am anxious” or “I am my emotions” because they create that false sense of self. Remember you can’t be your emotions. You are simply aware that they exist within you. So use words like “I am noticing” or “I am aware that” and identify the specific physiological sensation or thought in your mind that’s associated with the feeling.
Notice that feelings rise and subside so that you can stay tuned to the fact that they are temporary. That will allow you to prevent overwhelm. And by doing all this, you have a greater sense of control over your emotions so you don’t have to stay stuck with them, and it allows you to feel them rather than suppress them. But most importantly of all, by doing this you can detach from your emotions and feel like you are resilient and have more control over your internal experience in a healthy way.
Now if you want additional tools and tricks of the mind, download my free Mindset Mastery Starter Kit. You can find it at bit.ly/mindsetmasterykit
Until next week, have a wonderful, wonderful week ahead. Take care.