~ by Anchen Texter, licensed DEI Trainer & Consultant ~
Western culture has stereotypes about emotions that put them into rigid boxes: anger is to be controlled, sadness is only appropriate in certain instances, fear is to be hidden, and happiness is to be expressed, but not too much. There is so much more to our emotional lives than this limited range! What we don’t realize is the many ways that our emotions work with and support each other to flow, so that we can stay in the flow of life. When certain emotions aren’t welcome, such as sadness, then we lose access to important aspects of our intelligence.
For example, when channeling anger (which means standing up for yourself without being rude about it), it’s important to get grounded and be present in your body, so that you can feel what is important to you, and speak from that place of clarity. Grounding is a skill that sadness makes possible, because it’s your sadness that helps you release excess energy, stress, or anything else that’s distracting you from the present moment. Without your flowing sadness, you might only be able to be half-present, or partially grounded, if you can get grounded at all.
If your sadness isn’t welcome, then grounding might be one of those skills that takes a lot of intention and focus to do, and isn’t something that you can do in the heat of the moment when your anger has flared to an intense level. Sadness pairs with all the other emotions to help them flow. When sadness isn’t welcome, then it’s hard for the other emotions to flow as well. I’ll tell you a story about my Grandmother that illustrates my point.
After her husband died, my Grandmother continued her lifestyle of tooling around the country in a motorhome, with a tow vehicle behind it. Sometimes she would drive alone, sometimes she’d travel with one of her kids, but Grandmother always traveled with J.D., her dog.
On this particular trip, she was with her daughter, and they’d had to hurriedly pull over on the side of the highway in the windswept desert because of an alarming noise coming from the engine. It was hot out there, and it didn’t seem safe to keep driving or even keep the engine running to keep the air conditioning going for the dog. Not long before, they’d passed a road sign that said the nearest town was 3 miles away. It looked like someone would have to walk the three miles to get help. They were in a pickle!
They both got out in the desert heat to look around and figure out what to do.
They walked behind the motorhome, talking about what to do, and if they had cell service to call someone, and if it was safe out there, and how long the motorhome would stay cool in the heat…their anxiety increasing with each unknown. What would they do!?
In their anxiety and panic about their predicament, they walked right past the car they’d been towing the whole time.
After the first moments of anxious planning subsided, they saw the car, and laughed at themselves. They were so caught up with their excited reaction to their emotions, and in trying to fix what seemed to be the problem, that there wasn’t any room for the cooling groundedness of sadness to help them see what was right in front of them. In this case, sadness would have helped them acknowledge their predicament, and also to remember the other resources they had available to them – such as the tow car.
It’s true, they did eventually see the car, and no one had to trek into town on foot. I tell you though, it’s a good thing that they happened to walk behind the motorhome, because who knows what would have happened if they had walked in front of it?
Emotions are wily things, and they can be tricky if you don’t know how to listen, or if you’ve been taught to ignore them. The wonderful thing is, is that once you’re able to listen to your emotions, what they say is always true for you. Your emotions give you insight into your own psyche and motivations, and they help you access the full scope of your intelligences, by working together and supporting each other.
Emotions work better when they work together!
Anchen Texter, LMT is double-licensed as a Dynamic Emotional Integration® Trainer and Consultant. She lives in Eugene, Oregon, and offers experiential DEI workshops and trainings throughout the Northwest to women’s groups, businesses, and nonprofit organizations. She is a licensed massage therapist, a trained shamanic healer, and a certified life coach. Her education in each of these areas of body, mind, and spirit inform her approach to working with the emotions as part of the whole. Anchen’s expertise in DEI includes boundaries and anger, preventing empathic burnout, and emotion regulation practices.
Join Anchen for Befriending Anger, a 4-week course that starts on Monday, April 9th. In addition to written curriculum supported with worksheets and audio recordings of practices, there are weekly experiential webinars (one hour per week) designed to teach you how to give voice to your anger with intelligence and empathy. You can learn more about Befriending Anger here.