I used to be afraid of my anger.
At one point, it was the overwhelming emotion I felt. And because we are not taught how to manage anger in a healthy way, I internalized it - into suicidal intent. I went to my counsellor, crying. I wanted to live but my anger brought me to a scary place. And she said, “Your anger is trying to tell you something. What is it saying?”
This was the first glimpse into emotional presence. One year later, I practice it daily - in fact, almost every hour. It is such a crucial practice to our well-being, relationships and overall life.
We are social, emotional beings but are not taught how to manage our emotions. Many of us suppress and deny our emotions, or exaggerate and get stuck in them. Because emotions are connected to thoughts and behaviours, we lose control of our thoughts and actions when we’re not managing our emotions.
So here’s emotional presence 101. I share with you 5 steps on managing your emotions. I hope the application and integration of these tips bring you more inner calm.
1. Get real about your emotions.
How are you doing?
How are you feeling?
What emotions are you feeling?
This is generally how an interaction starts with a new friend. Practice getting vulnerable about how you’re FEELING. Not just a connotative good or bad, but identify the emotions. Are you feeling content? Distressed? Anxious? If you’re suppressing emotions, numb is a good start. Keep digging. Get real about your emotions with yourself, and with others. Ask yourself and your friends how you/they are feeling on a regular basis. Normalizing these emotion words is key. Reminder: It’s possible to feel different emotions at once, even what feels like conflicting ones.
PRACTICE: What emotions are you feeling?
2. Scan your body.
Emotions are the body’s response to thoughts. You don’t know what you’re feeling? Close your eyes. Sit or stand still and scan your body from head to toe. Where do you feel tension or a heaviness? Where do you feel a lightness or a calm? Can you feel butterflies or a slight tremor? What emotions do these sensations represent?
PRACTICE: Where in your body do you feel it?
3. Listen to your emotions.
There’s no such thing as “good” or “bad” emotions. There are definitely ones that feel more pleasant than others, but by judging and labeling them as such creates shame + guilt around feeling the “negative” ones. All emotions are trying to tell you something. Are your needs being met? Are your boundaries being crossed? Is there something you could do for yourself? Take a moment and listen.
PRACTICE: What are your emotions trying to tell you?
4. Treat your emotions like a guest.
How do we stay present + aware of our emotions without suppressing or exaggerating them? Here’s an analogy.
When an emotion knocks at your door, open the door and let them in. Invite them to sit on your couch. Offer them some tea. Have a chat. What’s going on? What message do they want to deliver? How do you feel about their message? What actions can you take? Give the emotion your fullest attention. Feel their presence fully. Then once the conversation is over, let them go. Say goodbye as they walk out the door and close the door. But don’t lock it, as you might get other guests soon.
PRACTICE: Are you suppressing emotions? Dig them up. Are you holding onto emotions? What do you need to feel them fully and let them go?
5. Take action.
Take what you’ve learned from the emotion. What are your next steps? If you’ve been procrastinating studying and simultaneously feel anxious about an exam, you might get to work or create a study plan. If you’re feeling chaotic or scattered, you might meditate or pray. If you’re feeling gratitude, you might express this appreciation to your loved ones. Awareness is step one. Action is step two.
How we approach the world + life events is greatly dependent on how we’re feeling. So much conflict and suffering is caused by our lack of emotional awareness. Practicing emotional presence prepares us to approach life mindfully + consciously. Cry when you’re feeling sad. Dance when you’re feeling joy. Get out of your mind and into your body. Feel all of the feels.
Founder of The Tipping Point