Climbing outside yourself is an exciting adventure. Climb out of the past and future that hold you back. Climb into your life.
Emotions motivate us. Positive emotions cause us to move towards something, and negative emotions ( like fear or sadness) create an aversion that makes us stay away. Emotions are a major motivational life force, yet most people have no awareness of how they work in the background and give us energy or take it away.
Who is making decisions for you? You are. However, emotions are in the background, helping you decide. Most of the time, we are not even aware of how emotions are impacting our day. Long term repressing emotions wreak havoc on our well being. It hinders our ability to connect with ourselves and others. It shields us from additional emotional pain, and it's hard on you.
When negative emotions are provoked, they release stress hormones into your body. Longer term, adrenaline can have a damaging impact on your health. Ultimately your emotions job is to make you move away from whatever is causing the emotion. Fear, anxiety, sadness and other negative emotions make you feel crummy. This naturally makes you move away from whatever you were doing. However, unless you recognize and work with the emotions, they tend to stick around and do more damage.
You don't have to be an emotional scientist, and you don't have to dwell constantly in trashy feelings. Instead, understand why you repress emotions. Next, start to welcome them in, appreciate and accept them. It's not as hard as you think. It's actually a lot easier than pushing them down and pretending they don't exist.
Why we Repress Emotions
Society has changed a lot, but I grew up in a time where we were taught mind over matter. Whatever you put your mind to matters, but feelings don’t. Just think positively, and everything will be fine.
I get agitated when other people poke at my feelings. As a keynote speaker, before I give a speech, some people get in my face and say, are you nervous? As if they want to provoke my nerves. All I know is this is not the time for this kind of self-inquiry. Maybe later.
This disposition has helped me a lot. When I faced tough stand- up comedy crowds, I told myself to suck it up. Like my ballet instructor instilled in me when I twisted my ankle, she told me the show must go on. The stage is not the time to feel weak or sorry for myself. I persisted through the pain and told myself I could handle this. I know I wouldn’t have survived those years if I didn’t practice this mental toughness.
After years of pandering to audiences, I have learned to judge how I feel and act by how others look. Happy audiences make me happy and unhappy ones don’t. When people don’t respond the way I want, I morph my energy and delivery into something that will draw the right response.
When I share this with people, I’m surprised to discover I’m not alone. Everyone feels like they have to put on a show constantly. Morphing their energy, expression, behaviour and intention to match the invisible needs of others. You don’t need a stage to show off your ability to please others. It’s deeply ingrained in many work cultures where maintaining a positive attitude is regarded as a necessary trait. Being positive is mandatory in some organizations. Stay positive, and don’t complain. How long can you keep this charade up?
Just walking by a stranger, you may feel obligated to smile, or they will think you are mean. Underneath the surface is this intense pressure to put on a show. Be a people pleaser. Act like everything is ok, especially when it's not. Slowly you mute your feelings to adapt. Squish feelings down long enough, and they start to erupt in inconsistent ways.
It makes you very vulnerable because you will always be at the whim of others approval. It’s not a fair gauge because we aren’t privy to other people’s stress. When people don’t respond the way you want, you assume it’s your fault. Likely it has nothing to do with you; they're just having a bad day. Like riding a leaf in a wind current, you are vulnerable.
It took years on the stage to grow tired of my attachment to an audience's approval. It was exhausting. Once I let go of that false sense of approval, it freed me up to make a much bigger impact. I discovered that fear is a very self-centred feeling. It doesn't allow you to really see others. Cocooned in your own emotions, you grow blind to others.
For years I stayed busy delegating and outsourcing my inner guidance to outside sources. I look to an audience for approval, to my bank account for validation, to economic trends for direction. I was an emotional shock absorber for others.
My favourite mantra is fake it until you make it. Just act like everything is ok and soon it will be. There is science behind this idea. I learned this in my twenties; the body doesn’t know the difference between a real and imagined event. If you pretend you are confident, even when you're not, your body responds with confident emotions, and over time you become more confident. I’ve also practised this most of my life through meditation and visualization. I know it works.
I tell myself I’m confident, I’m happy, I feel energetic- especially when I’m not. Eventually, I start to feel happy, confident, and energetic. I maintain my charming personality, but I’m increasingly exhausted.
There is one big problem that I’ve stumbled across. I’m not really working with my emotions; I’m blocking and avoiding them. Sometimes it feels like an internal pressure cooker. Emotions are there, but I push them down. I deny how I really feel to be a more presentable version of myself. I’ve climbed inside myself and presented an imposture.
I don’t remember ever taking a class in emotional regulation. They should teach this. Instead, society teaches us to avoid and block our emotions. We often come up with unhealthy ways to regulate emotions like overeating, drugs, and alcohol.
Join us every week as we start to uncover ways to climb outside of challenging emotions. For now, get into a habit of occasionally stopping to notice how you feel. You don't need to analyse it or judge it, just let the feeling sit inside you for a while.
On an upcoming blog, we will discover how to climb outside these emotions.