Use your emotions as a signpost!

This weekend I felt frustrated, angry. Because I heard people outside clearly breaking the curfew, I saw and heard about people visiting other people in groups (against the regulations/ strong advice of the Dutch government). So I sat down Sunday morning to write about this in my journal. Writing always brings light, more clarity, creates some emotional distance to how I am feeling. So I wrote about everything I felt. The anger, frustration, sadness, feeling that is was unfair and so on. That my  world felt confined, boring, uninspiring.

And I wrote about what these emotions were telling me.

What I needed
What surfaced was this. I really craved freedom to get new input, new vistas, new perspectives.  I longed to broaden my horizon again, to experience new things, see new things.  So I wrote to myself (😉 ) “Ok,  if you are craving new impulses, wider perspectives… why don’t you go for a walk in a new place, a different nature reserve than the ones surrounding your hometown? Just go somewhere else today. This will literally widen your perspective, you will be seeing new things and will be able to enjoy different vistas. “

I talked to my husband and kids about my plan. Half an hour later we were in the car, driving to a nature reserve, a 30 minute drive from our home. We all came back with a big smile on our faces and with renewed energy.  My own dark mood had totally lifted. The light energy we all felt after this walk carried through the rest of our Sunday.

Obviously one walk doesn’t fully satisfy this need. But going somewhere new, seeing new vistas brought light and joy. And it showed me the agency I have even in restricted circumstances. Feeling agency is so important for your wellbeing!

Your emotions can be such valuable signposts! 
Signposts to something you need or something you value.

Get curious!
👉When you feel difficult emotions like frustration, anger, sadness:  get curious!

It might help to write it all down. Just stream of conscious writing about everything you feel.  And then ask yourself the following two questions:

🌱What is this emotion about a situation or a person telling me about what I need or value?

🌱 How can I bring a little bit of what I value or need into my life today? What small action or step could I take today?

Equally when you feel positive emotions like joy, excitement, admiration - get curious as well. All emotions are signposts to what you value or need.

The positive power of anger

Women in our society have often been taught that feeling or expressing anger is not done. But anger is just as normal and important as feeling joy or fear. Instead of looking at anger as a negative feeling that should be avoided, anger is actually an important signal. Anger can let us know that a boundary has been crossed or a need has not been met. It can be a powerful signal that your have been doing more or giving more than you can afford. Or it could be a warning that others are doing too much for us and in this way block our own growth or competence.

It can be really powerful to explore what your anger is telling you. Years ago when my children were much smaller, I noticed that I often became angry at my kids when they just asked me a small question. I started to investigate what was actually behind my anger, to ask myself are there any needs not met or boundaries that were crossed? It became clear very quickly that I craved quiet uninterrupted me-time. And this need was not met. My anger had nothing to do with this question but it was a signal that I needed more space for myself.

So I talked to my husband about it and we looked for a ways I could build in more quiet uninterrupted me-time. I also talked to my kids about how a really loved some time alone, in quiet. That I would sometimes go to my study for this and that I would tell them when I did, so they would know when not to disturb me. And my husband helped to keep the kids downstairs when I was up in my study for some quiet me-time.  Once I built in this me time, I snapped at my kids far less often.

Over the years I have developed a routine of starting my day with 30 minutes of uninterrupted me time, so when the kids wake up I already have given myself the gift of me-time. And if I need some more during the day, I just go to the woods, or go to my study and hang up a do not disturb sign. So by investigating my anger an important need for me became clear, I started to have conversations with my husband and kids about what I needed and I made changes in my life so I could honour this need. Talking about the positive power of anger 😊!

So I invite you to check in with yourself this week when you feel anger (or irritation). What is your anger telling you about your needs and your boundaries?

If you want to learn more about anger, why we feel it is not ok to feel or express anger, and how anger can be a very positive and powerful source… read “The dance of anger” by Dr. Harriet Lerner. Highly recommended!

If you want to react to this blog, you are more than welcome to do so. Just hit reply and send me an email or write a reaction in the comments below. I always love to hear from you!

Wishing you a lovely week!