Identifying your Emotional Lessons

You may be suffering from the pain of internal pressure. You were not taught in school how to identify the presence of inner stress. You never learned where it came from or how to relieve it in the right way.

You may spend your life “relieving” it in ways that make it worse. When you finally burst a blood vessel, they will nod sadly and say, “It was the stress.” Yes. But which stress? It would be far more useful to identify these sources of your inner stress as a first step toward making them go away.

Inner stress comes from internalizes emotions and having the wrong definition of “control”. For example, many people learn to suppress their anger to avoid being reprimanded. You may “stuff” your anger, for fear of the consequences of letting it out. You may have learned as a child that expressing anger was followed by severe consequences. You may now carry the belief that if you “stuff it down” and internalize your feelings of anger, you will prevent “disaster” (punishment, victimization, rejection, displeasing, abandonment) in the future.

So where did you learn about your emotions? Humans learn by mirroring others. This emerges on the first day of life. Stick out your tongue at a newborn, and the infant is likely to stick out his or her tongue in response. This imitation or mirroring lays the groundwork for learning. But it also means that when someone confronts you with a nasty tone, you can end up mimicking it without even meaning to. Many people do not recall being taught how to cope with their emotions, but such lessons occurred, whether directly or by observation.

For example, when you were a child, a parent might have distanced him/herself from you or left the room whenever you got angry. This experience taught you that expressions of anger would cause you to be rejected, isolated and abandoned by the ones you love. In other families a parent may yell, “Don’t raise your voice at me,” suggesting do as I say, not as I do. Identifying your emotional lessons can help you change the ways you experience and express your emotions. Some common examples of problematic emotional lessons include:
• Always treat other people’s feelings as more important than your own.
• Never do anything that might make someone else unhappy.
• Don’t express anger.
• Getting angry, gets attention.
• Ignore your feelings, or better still, don’t feel.
• Don’t trust others with your feelings; keep them to yourself.
• Never trust your feelings; trust only your logic.
• Be happy all the time.
• Men don’t cry.
• Good girls don’t get angry.

You have never forgotten the lessons from the past. They became your blueprint for “coping” with out of control situations in later life. And you have not reassessed your definition of control since then. Based on this childish perspective, control means “preventing bad things from happening.” But as an adult, this belief toward control, breeds endless stress because:
• It requires you to know what is going to happen before it happens.
• It requires you to solve problems before they arise.
• It requires that you prevent disaster. It sets you up to feel inadequate to cope with life because you cannot possibly predict the future with perfect accuracy.
• If the “disaster” happens, you blame yourself for “failing” to prevent it: “I should have seen it coming.”
• You blame yourselves for “failing” to know what the other person was thinking and planning to do to you: “I should have known.”

Angry woman photo available from Shutterstock

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Shared by: Aaron Karmin, LCPC, Contributing Blogger

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