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Suppression versus acknowledgement

August 6, 2007

Something I’m often guilty of (as are most people, I suspect) is pushing aside feelings or gut responses to things that we feel aren’t “right” or productive in some way.  If we get angry at somebody or something, we’ll see that and compound the anger by getting angry at the fact we’re letting something stupid get to us.  I find myself pushing anger aside, telling myself, “That’s not worth getting angry over.”

But, you know what?  That doesn’t usually help matters.  Instead, the anger just sits there, not actively being used, but bubbling and morphing into tight muscles, stomach discomfort, and headaches.

What seems to be more beneficial is to acknowledge my feelings or my response to an event, recognizing it for what it is: a thought in my head that causes a physical response in my body which may, in turn, cause me to say or do something that I’ll later regret.  It’s kind of a weird thing the first few times it happens.

When I feel myself starting to get worked up, I stop for just a moment and just let it be.  I don’t push it aside… it’s almost like hitting the pause button on a video.  Everything just kind of sits there, waiting to be examined.  And when you do that, it’s like seeing that emotion in the third person.  “Hey, that guy’s angry.”  And just by stating it, recognizing, “I’m getting worked up,” the feeling then tends to drop away.  I’ve acknowledged it, it’s not fighting for attention, and I’m able to proceed a bit more reasonably.

Of course, this is sometimes hard to put into practice and may not even be what you want to do in particularly intense situations where your gut responses and emotions may be guiding you towards self-defense, but I’ve found that the majority of my own stress-inducing feelings (anger, fear, guilt) are imagined and based on something I expect is or will be true, when generally it’s just my interpretation of that truth that’s provoking those feelings.

Did that make any sense?  This stuff is hard to write about in a way that doesn’t come across as self-helpy or dripping with new agey-ness.

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