Have you ever wondered why some people always seem to stay positive, even when they face tough times, while others who appear to have everything are unhappy and negative?
Negative emotions can cause stress, which affects both our brains and our bodies, and can lead to decreased focus and performance. Humans experience four basic emotions: anger, fear, happiness, and sadness, and all other emotions fall under these categories. For example, nervousness is a type of fear, and feeling irritated is a type of anger.
All emotions are important, and they serve a purpose. Fear helps protect us from danger, while anger can tell us when someone has crossed a boundary. Feeling sad can let us know when something is wrong or when we have lost something or someone important. Feeling happy tells us that things are going well and that we are enjoying our lives.
When we experience negative emotions, we can either try to ignore them, get stuck in them, or process them. Processing our emotions is the best way to deal with them. When we process an emotion, we think about what happened and store the information in our brain in a way that makes sense. Then the event becomes a memory. Even if the memory is unpleasant, we can think about it calmly and stay in control of our thoughts and feelings.
The brain requires 4 steps to process emotions.
The first step is to regulate them.
Emotions are important. They are the messaging system between our body and our brain. They guide us and help us navigate situations and interactions with others. That’s great when emotions are positive, however, when emotions are uncomfortable it can become tricky. Remember this: being an emotion is different from just feeling it.
Feeling an emotion is something that happens to you. It’s your brain and body telling you that something important is going on and requires your attention. You might feel nervous before a test, or angry when someone does something you don’t like. But being an emotion means you are identifying yourself with that emotion. It’s like saying “I am angry” instead of “I feel angry.”
It’s important not to identify with emotions because they can be powerful. If you say, “I am angry,” it’s like you’re saying that your whole identity is wrapped up in that anger. But that’s not true! You are not just an angry person. You are a whole person with lots of different feelings and experiences.
De-identifying with emotions means letting them exist without making them a part of your identity. When you feel angry, you can acknowledge the anger and let it pass without letting it take over. You can say to yourself, “I feel angry right now, but that’s not all I am. I am still me, and this feeling will pass.”
So, remember, it’s normal to feel emotions but don’t let them define you. You are more than just your feelings, and it’s important to de-identify with emotions so that you can stay in control and regulate yourself.
The second step in dealing with emotions is called “relating”.
Your brain needs to connect the emotion you’re feeling with the event that caused it. You can do this by telling yourself, “It makes sense that I’m feeling this way because of what happened.”
When you say this, your brain starts to remember what triggered the emotion. You should pay attention to these memories and try not to judge or change them. Just let them come up and notice them in a kind and non-judgmental way.
This way, you can relate the emotion to the event that caused it.
By practicing this skill, you can learn more about what triggers your emotions. Sometimes, events from the past are fueling your current emotion without you even realizing it. By saying, “I get it! I’m feeling this way because of what I’ve been through,” your brain can scan your memories for links to your current emotion. This can help you gain insights and can help relate of what you weren’t aware of before.
Understanding the relationship between your current emotions and past events can provide immediate relief and help you move on to the next step of processing your emotions. The last step is to release your emotions. This means letting them go and not holding onto them anymore. Holding onto emotions can be exhausting and cause unnecessary stress.
The third step is called “release”.
Releasing emotions doesn’t mean ignoring them or pretending they don’t exist. It means accepting them, processing them, and then letting them go. To release emotions, you can try taking a few deep breaths and telling yourself, “It’s okay to let go of this emotion now. I don’t need to hold onto it anymore.”
Releasing emotions can be hard, especially if they are strong or have been with you for a long time. But it’s important to remember that emotions are not a permanent part of you. They are just feelings that come and go.
When you release emotions, you are creating space for new emotions and experiences. You are letting go of the past and moving forward. So don’t be afraid to release your emotions and make room for new things in your life.
The last step in processing emotions is called “reset”.
After you regulated, related, and released your emotions, it’s important to reset and ground yourself in the present moment. This can help you move forward with a clear mind and positive outlook.
You can try resetting by taking a few deep breaths and focusing on your senses. Notice the sounds around you, the feeling of the ground beneath your feet, and the sensations in your body. By bringing yourself back to the present moment and focusing on the physical world around you, you can let go of any remaining tension or stress.
It’s also important to practice self-care and do something that brings you joy or relaxation after processing your emotions. This could be taking a walk, spending time with loved ones, or indulging in a hobby. By taking care of yourself, you can build resilience and better cope with future emotional challenges.
By Ampara Bouwens
Ampara is an experienced Clinical Psychologist with over 19 years of experience, providing mental health services in private, governmental, and corporate sectors. She specializes in complex trauma, personality disorders, and other severe disorders, using a compassionate and non-judgmental approach to help clients regain control and autonomy over their lives. Since moving to New Zealand in 2016, Ampara has been running a successful private practice, offering personalised and effective treatment to individuals seeking to improve their mental health and well-being. Ampara is also the clinical lead and founder of MindGarage – a leading provider of psychological services, treatment, and assessment, with a team of skilled therapists who provide high-quality, personalised treatment via the same compassionate, non-judgmental approach. The MindGarage team takes a holistic approach to therapy, considering all aspects of a client’s life and offering tailor-made services to meet individual needs. MindGarage believes in empowering clients with the skills and knowledge needed to make positive changes in their lives, promoting long-term mental and emotional health.
Visit Ampara online: https://amparabouwens.co.nz/