Defining strong emotions

Strong emotions are emotions you feel are too big for you to cope with – either in the moment or longer term. Sometimes it’s those ‘seeing red’ moments or when you feel that strong urge or fight or fight. We are often so consumed with labelling emotions as good or bad or positive or negative we forget that emotions are literal guide posts. They are there as signals to help us understand a scenario, our conditioning or our understanding of ourselves. 

How can we navigate these types of emotions?

To understand more about emotional awareness and lieracy I’d invite to you to read the blog on ‘Why is Emotional Resilience and Awareness so Vital to a Healthy Mindset’ to give you a good basis for this deeper conversation.

When we have strong emotions we are often in a state of fight or flight. We look for the path of least resistance in terms of how to manage the situation with the least collateral damage. This usually means falling to our default autopilot behaviours. These behaviour patterns generally are created in our early years and at one point did serve and support us, both often no longer do. So we end up reacting (knee-jerk) to the strong emotions rather than responding (consciously thought out).

Creating some space between the trigger and the behaviour is about taking the time and the decision to become more consciously aware of your behaviour patterns. This can be difficult and uncomfortable as often we don’t want to acknowledge these patterns a lot of the time. This is where people often look for support, to understand the patterns and triggers and know how to change them in a healthy way.

However, in the moment if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed and your ability to focus and understand the exchange or situation is getting difficult (I.e you fall back on your autopilot, you feel like you’re about to ‘blow up’ or lash out) that’s when taking a physical break or pause can be very valuable.

Have a phrase that you can say in these situations that conveys that you stepping back for 3 minutes or so is needed for you to appreciate and understand everything in a calm and respectful way to yourself and whoever else might be involved.

Or if the situation doesn’t involve another person have the courage to step back and find that place of observation and not judgement. 

This isn’t a case or repression, far from it. It is about recognising your patterns and pausing for enough time to be able to choose a different behaviour, a different way of responding. 

What if I step back and then don't do the work to understand the pattern?

There is an amount of discipline involved for sure to come back to things and explore them.

This is often why people opt for support for these parts.

Even just pausing and checking in with yourself, what you’re feeling, where you’re feeling it and if you need to take some space from the situation will be invaluable to beginning understanding and regulating your emotions. 

The goal here is emotional regulation not emotional repression. If you keep that in mind you’ll be reminded of the importance of coming back to these parts of yourself and the benefits to you in exploring them.