"I'm sorry, I don't know why I'm crying".
"I know it sounds silly, but...."
"I feel so stupid for feeling this way...."
I have said all of the above. Numerous times. And it never felt right. Clearly there was a need for me to express how I was feeling at the time, so why introduce that with an apology? Are we worried the listener will be offended/embarrassed/pressured? Do we think our emotions are not worthy of being expressed? Have we been conditioned to believe that certain feelings are taboo and should be stifled?
As a life coach, I began to hear the same words being said to me by my clients. It didn't feel right to be the listener in that situation either, and that's why I chose to write this post.
I propose you ask yourself this question - when you have felt that tightness in your chest, your heart rate increasing, your eyes start to water, your muscles start to tense, your breath start to quicken, did you ask to feel that way? Did you make a conscious decision to alter the chemical balance of your body so that it responded with these physical sensations? It is fairly easy to decide to move our bodies in a certain way, and although it is harder, we can distract ourselves from certain thoughts as well. However, when it comes to directly influencing our emotions, it is not as black and white. These physiological changes are our body's innate response to something that happens in our environment. We see something, hear something, taste something, smell something, speak to someone etc., and our body reacts. To read a more detailed account of how these changes come about, click here.
So if we can't directly control our emotions, does it follow that we should be ashamed of them? And now that you understand that these emotions are signals to us that there has been a shift in our internal balance, what can you do to start to let go of that shame?
1. Accept ALL emotions.
A lot of people I know, including myself, acknowledge that as children, and sometimes even in adult relationships, we were taught that certain emotions should not be expressed publicly. If we want to move forward, and own our feelings, we first have to embrace all of them. We can classify emotions as 'positive' (e.g. joy and excitement), and 'negative' (e.g. anger and jealousy), however there are no 'good' or 'bad' emotions. When we feel any emotion arise, the best we can do is to name it, embrace it, and let it be. This may sound like this, "I am feeling angry. That is ok. I am going to sit with this anger until it is released".
2. Understand that emotions are universal.
You are not the only one. Most emotions are universal across all cultures, ages, and genders. You don't suddenly stop experiencing anger, or sadness, or fear, when you reach a certain age either. If, in the heat of the moment, you can remind yourself that everybody experiences that particular emotion, it can really lessen, and even get rid of, the feeling of embarrassment.
3. Express it and then you can move on.
When you resist or stifle your emotions, you create a blockage within yourself. You need to release this burden in order to literally feel lighter, and carry on moving forward. If doing this face-to-face seems too much for you right now, there are other ways you can release. Crying, journalling, shouting, singing, meditating, swearing, jumping - the possibilities are endless. Whatever feels right to you, is right for you. As long as our release is not harming anyone, you are good to go.
So next time you feel those emotions bubbling up, name them, embrace them, and release them. Let go of the shame, because those emotions bring us together as a species. They are a common denominator. And when you are ready to tell someone how you feel, don't say sorry.
I am a positive psychology life coach and co-founder of Soul Space. To find out more about our life coaching services, click here:
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