When dealing with emotions, it’s important to remember that they are a natural part of the human experience. They are in us for a reason, and we need to allow them (our emotions) to be expressed and pay attention to what ‘else’ they might be telling us.
Take Anger for an example, Anger can be considered a Secondary Emotion, which means that there is always other emotions that are felt/experienced before becoming angry. For this reason, we must always consider this question when we find ourselves becoming/feeling angry: ‘What ELSE is going on?’. I like to use the analogy of an onion. There are so many layers to an onion and as we pull back each layer we get closer and closer to the core. Imagine doing that when dealing with Anger. Instead of just reacting to the strong impulses and feelings that many time come along we should also consider what other feelings are also at play?
Let me give you an example:
Imagine I was walking along the street with my little 3 year old son. He has a ball under his arm, and before I can blink, the ball falls out of his arms, into the street and he dashes out into the road after it. Initially I am gripped with fear as I see my little boy in harms way, but by the time I cross the street to where he now is with his ball, all he sees is anger. I might say something like ‘LJ…. How many times have I told you NOT to let go of mommies hand when we are taking a walk… etc. etc. etc. The way in which I might speak to my son in that situation would be intense and full of emotion, inside I might have experienced: shock, fear, terror, helplessness etc. however outside (in this example) I only demonstrated and expressed my disappointment and anger.
This is an example of how we typically find ourselves at the place of feeling ‘anger’ initially there are other ‘primary’ emotions that are sometimes missed because of how quickly we move from them to anger. I encourage you to take a moment the next time you feel angry to ask yourself this question: ‘ok… I’m angry… but what ELSE am I feeling’ or ‘what ELSE is going on’. This can be a very powerful experience in helping you manage your anger a little better, because as you discover more of what ‘else’ is going on, you won’t have to spend as much time feeling/being angry.