Emotions: A Balancing Act
“Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.” ~ Oscar Wilde
I am an emotional person and always have been as far back as I can remember. I cry at the sad movies or parts of a book and sometimes tears of joy when things work out well for the characters. My children tease me about how many tissues any movie or television show might need but that’s okay, for my emotions are part of who I am. I weep with those who weep and laugh with people who are laughing even if I am not sure why we are laughing. Giggles erupt over silly things, especially if I am tired. I have been known to dissolve into giggles sitting in a restaurant with two of my daughters over some goofy remark. At the time I thought, “How undignified. I should be setting the example for decorum.” Later I just figured, “Why not? Who cares if others see me laughing in public? Maybe it might even brighten their day.”
Emotions do influence and sometimes shape my dreams, thoughts and behaviours, more often than I might want to admit. Behaviours put action to my thoughts which definitely are influenced by how I feel. I will not (nor should I) apologize for my emotions, for they come from my heart. However, sometimes I act on feelings alone instead of adding in the facts. This can cause a derailment of positivity which in turn makes me struggle with working towards the goals and dreams I have.
Stuffing my emotions, especially the ones that hurt or cause fear deep inside only adds to the pain and misery for me. Life becomes a balancing act of owning my emotions, allowing the heart felt feelings to be part of the journey without precluding the use of facts to help make decisions. Oscar Wilde said it well: “I don’t want to be at the mercy of my emotions. I want to use them, to enjoy them and to dominate them.”
How can I walk this tightrope, especially when life seems to be full of tough stuff that triggers those deep, fearful feelings? How do I dominate those emotions, those deep-seated feelings of fear, discouragement, and sadness when all I want to do is have a good cry or figuratively run away and hide? How do I make room to look at the facts without the influence of emotions?
The first thing I need to remember is that stuffing the feelings inside hinders progress toward any goal I may have set for myself. It also stops me from being the best I can be at this moment in time and flourishing as I continue my life’s journey. Owning my feelings and having that good cry cleanses something deep inside. Of course, it does not change the circumstances but it releases the bottled up emotions. Then I can begin to think more clearly.
Over the years there have been a few lessons I’ve learned and tools I have placed in my toolbox to help me balance the negative emotional states, the depression with the facts to move forward. For me, journaling those angry feelings instead of screaming at someone preserves relationships, keeps guilt of hurting someone’s feeling at bay and empties the negative. Putting the words about fear on to a page allows me to own up to it, examine it more deeply and then look at it in a different light. It allows the emotions to escape from being bottled up inside like taking the lid off a pressure cooker.
Hanging out with good friends who understand the situation I am facing at a particular moment in time and who like me despite the emotional rollercoaster they see is a fantastic blessing. My friends encourage, console, and pray with and for me. This is an important tool since my faith is essential to help me balance the emotional being I am.
Sometimes I do just need to figuratively run away and hide for a bit. Then I can come back refreshed and have the perspective to put facts and feelings together to move forward towards my goals. My go-to place is often found in the pages of a book where I can watch the characters deal with their lives, problems and how they might find solutions. It is said that music can calm or tame the savage beast. I believe this is also true for the beast of emotional outbursts—temper tantrums if you will—or a bout of feeling sorry for myself. Music soothes my soul, calms the spirit and allows the negative emotions to run their course and positivity to emerge.
Each person is unique. What works for me might or might not work for someone else. But no matter who we are, what is going on in our lives or how huge our emotional outbursts can become, all of us need to know our feelings are part of our makeup. Helen Keller said, “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or touched. They must be felt with the heart.” Our emotions are what we feel with our heart. Now to keep on walking that balance beam between emotions (feelings) and those necessary facts to become the most authentic person I can be.