“For after all, the best thing one can do when it is raining is let it rain.”
Is there such thing as a wrong feeling? Well kind of, but not really. Most feelings aren’t fundamentally good or bad, rather it’s how we chose to act on them which makes them good or bad, or useful or detrimental to ourselves or someone else.
Many of us were brought up, conditioned, and told to believe having negative feelings is bad so if you ever hope to be a worthwhile, good, acceptable, respectable, or even half decent person you must always be in total control of your feelings, and only ever feel or express the good ones.
If this is the case, then I fail. And I’ve been learning to be okay with that.
One of said fails occurred just the other day after putting my year and a half old daughter down for her afternoon nap. My child typically naps for about 90 minutes, so knowing this I had been determined and motivated all morning to spend this uninterrupted hour and a half or so being extra productive and getting some good solid work done.
On this particular day, however, about 20 minutes in, and just as my productivity juices were starting to flow, she woke up!
“You’ve got to be kidding me.” I said to myself. “Not today. Okay, no big deal, I’ll just go in and help her go back to sleep. It’s okay if it takes me a few minutes to do that, I can come back and get these things done that I’ve been really wanting and needing to get done. It’s okay. All will be back on track in a few minutes.”
Well, apparently this little person had a different idea. Yes, she was willing to lay back down, but no, she was not at all interested in going back to sleep. And after a good 30 minutes of trying everything in my bag of tricks to lull her back to sleep, my plans of being able to get in some good solid and productive working time were slowly unraveling and there was nothing I could do.
But I just couldn’t let go of my mind set on getting this work done. So, I got mad. Mad and frustrated at my child. At one point I even said in a not-very-warm-mummy voice “Oh, just close your freaking eyes and go to sleep. COME ON!” but of course, she didn’t. Which of course led me to feel even more frustrated.
And then I started to get angry with myself for being a bad parent and feeling resentful toward my child for something that was not even a little bit her fault. And then I started to feel worse because I couldn’t stop feeling frustrated with the situation, and with myself for not being able to feel rational and talk myself out of feeling angry.
And then it all just felt like too much and I decided that I might just spontaneously combust right then and there.
Luckily, however, a few moments later I was able to get a grip and come to my senses, and show myself a little compassion and understanding by allowing myself to just throw out all attempts to “keep it all together and be a perfect and rational parent with perfect emotions” out the window.
And I cried. And I buried my head in my hands and I cried. And I walked in to the bathroom so my poor child wouldn’t have to witness such a pathetic site, and I sat on the edge of the tub and cried. Probably for too long, but I do sometimes have a bit of a flair for the dramatic.
And when I felt done crying, I stopped.
And then I sat on the edge of the tub and I took some deep deep breaths.I then got myself together, apologized to my child for not letting myself just accept and feel my feelings and instead taking them out on her.
Once I was able to feel what was happening inside of me and allowed it just come out through some pretty harmless tears and self-pity it was actually quite easy to let go of my idea of how I wanted the afternoon to unfold.
I went back in to her bedroom, scooped my sweet child up in to my arms and we played and laughed and snuggled and went to the park and ate cheesy fishies together.
So what of all this Julia? Let me tell you:
Next time You start to feel frustrated, discouraged, disappointed or angry, before you try to talk yourself down or out of what you’re feeling go through these 5 steps:
- Feel & Experience: Just go ahead and let yourself feel what you’re feeling. Feel that feeling and feel it good.
Give yourself a little space – walk into another room and have a good cry, or stomp of your feet, a walk around the block or bury your head into a pillow and just let the feeling come in swirl about for a few minutes.
- Accept:Then, once you’ve allowed that feeling to be felt, heard, and accepted, you will start the process of feeling much calmer because you won’t be fighting your feelings, yourself nor the fact that you are an imperfect and not-always-totally-together human being. And THAT’s sure to bring relief.
- Encourage: After this, pull your socks up, and give yourself a pep talk.
A pep talk that goes something like this: “I can do it!” or “So it didn’t go my way; that happens sometimes. Time to move forward and switch gears,” or “I’ve overcome MUCH bigger challenges than this,” Or “this sucks, but I am strong and I can get through it and it doesn’t have to ruin my whole day, or week, or month” or whatever words of support and encouragement you need to hear from yourself in that moment.
If you’re having a hard time with the pep talk, think about what you would say to a close friend who was struggling and needed to hear some words of encouragement, and then say that to yourself.
- Be Grateful: In spite of it all, think of 3 things you are grateful for in you life right in that moment. It doesn’t have to be things that are relevant or connected to recent upsetting events, just 3 things in general. They can be small like: having a comfy bed to sleep in at night, or having food in the fridge to feed myself whenever I am hungry, or living in a safe neighbourhood (you know, the little things we take for granted). Or bigger things like: Friends who love me, a job I enjoy, a healthy, happy, beautiful child (you know, the big things in life we take for granted).
- Re-Do:Whoever said there aren’t second chances in life was mistaken. There are almost always opportunities to re-write or more fittingly re-right a situation gone wrong.
Take yourself back to the situation or person with your renewed sense of peace, acceptance, and strength and turn the situation around into something positive and enjoyable.
Feel it, experience it, accept it, deal with it, and get on to feeling good again.
Julia Kristina is a Mental Health Therapist, and runs an active Private Practice in Downtown Vancouver, British Columbia. Helping men and women experience positive and healthy changes in their lives is her passion and she feels grateful and blessed to be doing this work. Julia also gives vibrant and engaging talks and workshops on topics related to Mental Health, Wellness, and Personal Development. Whenever she is able to find a few moments, she dedicates this time to her other passion: writing in a light hearted, yet thoughtful way what she is researching, learning, and experiencing as a therapist on her Good for Me blog