“Sometimes it is okay to just feel sad, without knowing why you’re feeling sad, or how the sadness got there, or worrying about how long it will stay.” – Jeff Foster
This passage sums up everything we need to know about emotions. We were not taught in school or in our homes about how emotions work. Or at least, when I was growing up, the topic was never discussed. I like analogies that describe emotions because the image helps me understand more deeply. For example, when we think of emotions like a weather system that comes and goes, my mind think of how the clouds and rain come but never stay. In this analogy, emotions are the weather system but we are always the sky. We are stable, blue, vast and magical while the rain, snow, hail, warm breeze, and even tornados come. And go.
When going through difficult emotions like sadness, anger, disappointment or rejection, we can get so enmeshed in the experience that we can’t see past them. We are one with the emotion. They consume us, and it is not uncommon to get lost for hours and sometimes even days.
It is okay to have emotions, even the really hard ones. We all prefer to experience the positive emotions 24/7 but that just wouldn’t be realistic. It is okay to not understand or appreciate why they have shown up. Sometimes you can pinpoint the cause but other times, they come on suddenly, without explanation. Thinking about the length of time any emotion will hang around becomes a senseless exercise.
In mindful self-compassion, we use different practices as a response to the difficult emotions. The purpose of any mindfulness exercise regarding emotions is not to get rid of them, but to acknowledge and give ourselves compassion for our own pain. It helps to label emotions without adding layers of interpretation. We are human. We feel. We feel it everywhere – in our minds, our hearts and our bodies. With some of our most challenging emotions like grief or betrayal, we feel it in our souls. Even those emotions that we believe will never go away morph and change with time.
One quick thing you can do when you face sadness or anger is to create some warmth in your body with physical touch. You could yourself a little squeeze and rub your upper arms. You could place your right hand over your heart area and feel the warmth. We are not used to giving ourselves human touch, we generally look for it elsewhere. But it is a resource that is available at any moment and it packs quite the punch. Sounds hokey, but it works. No side effects to report.
The next time you are facing a difficult moment, try this quick technique that can be done anywhere or anytime. You may naturally do it already, you just never noticed.