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When Emotions Are Either Too Strong or Seemingly Nonexistent

Learn to feel, yet contain, emotions for a happy, fulfilling life.

kulasekaran Seshadri/flickr
Source: kulasekaran Seshadri/flickr

After feeling burned by their emotions, people often try to soothe their pain by pouring cold water on them, ensuring that they do not get burned again. They numb hurt and anger. They deny fear. And they swear off love. While it’s true that getting rid of emotions the best way you can makes you less vulnerable, it’s also true that a life without emotions is cold and (ironically) creates its own kind of deep pain.

So, what can you do when emotional pain feels like too much? Rather than trying to extinguish emotions – the very experiences that breathe life into your existence – it’s essential that you find a relatively safe way to appreciate them.

Create a warm hearth. Look for relationships and activities that bring pleasure to your life. Attend to these, doing all you can to continue stoking the warmth they bring to your life.

Because difficulties are part of life, it’s also important to feel painful emotions. If you allow for them (without adding gasoline to the fire by doing things that upset yourself more), they will burn themselves out, or at least the flames will diminish and become less all-consuming.

Be vigilant about when there’s a need to contain the fire. Emotions sometimes flare up for everyone, such as when people grieve the death of a parent or are overcome by a sense of betrayal after discovering a partner's infidelity. These powerful emotions can be healthy responses, but they sometimes get out of hand, not just making the situation feel unbearable or scary, but actually becoming destructive. When this happens, it is time to manage those emotions.

Contain the fire. When emotions are so strong that you feel overcome, it can sometimes help to just remember to breathe. You might simply pay attention to your breath, or you might remind yourself that the feelings will pass. In addition, you might consider learning to strengthen your ability to cope with difficult life stressors. (See ‘Vaccinate’ Yourself Against Emotional Suffering.)

A powerful way to help yourself tolerate, manage, and heal from emotional struggles is to develop compassionate self-awareness. This is basically having a rich view of yourself from a compassionate perspective. Below are some examples of emotional difficulties that compassionate self-awareness can help with. Chances are you might relate to one or two. If so, check out the articles referenced to learn more.

By tending to your emotions and developing compassionate self-awareness, you can enjoy the warmth they bring to your life. You can relish excitement, joy, love, and awe. You can accept, appreciate, and often learn from experiences that bring sadness, hurt, and anger. You can also withstand the intense pain that often comes with loss or threats to your welfare. These are all possible because compassionate self-awareness can generally enable you to feel the warmth of your emotions without getting burned; and when you do get burned, it can help you heal your pain.

To learn more about managing your emotions, check out this brief video:

Making Change blog posts are for general educational purposes only. They may or may not be relevant for your particular situation; and they should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional assistance.