Do youSo often when we wish we were handling something better, what often follows in our mind is, “Why do I feel this way?” “Why can’t I just move on from feeling this way?” “What’s wrong with me?”
What’s happening when we do that? We are adding more feelings on top of the ones we were already struggling with! So, now not only do we feel bad about what was wrong in the first place, but now we also feel bad about ourselves, which only makes it harder to cope with life’s challenges. Getting comfortable with feelings long enough to understand what they mean isn’t always easy, but judging them will never make things better.
The other day there was a child who told me, “My whole life is a mess; everything is just messed up.” (All or nothing thinking, I thought.) It’s a thinking error we make when one thing goes wrong and we think our whole world is falling apart. It can happen when we have strong feelings. Everything feels wrong because what we do feel about what was wrong just overwhelmed us.
“Emotions are powerful and they can impact our interpretations,” I said. “What happened though?” “Well, I forgot to study for a test, I said something that upset my dad and now everything is just a mess.” Rather than dealing with the issues one by one, and focusing on finding solutions he was beating himself up for being stuck in upset. “It’s stupid that I even care,” he said. “I should be able to handle things better.”
Well, maybe. Perhaps he was right, but the truth is, he felt what he felt, and getting mad about it wasn’t going to help! Our feelings will be there whether we want them to be or not. We can’t prevent feelings from coming on, we can only control what we do with them once they are there.
When we are open to how we feel, we grow from how we feel. The best gift we could ever give ourselves is to stop judging the way we feel and start accepting the way we feel. This young man learned it was okay to be upset about a grade, it just meant school was important. He learned that it was okay to accept feeling bad about upsetting his dad, it just meant he cared about their relationship.
The next time you have strong feelings, accept them so that you too, can move on from them. Understand them for what they mean. And finally, decide what you can do to resolve them.
“A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” (Ecclesiastes 3:4)