Let The Feelings Flow: Dealing With Emotion
Dealing With Emotion: Let 'Em Flow
I have a theory that all feelings need their time on the surface. If intense or dangerous feelings linger too long – like anger or depression – they need immediate attention! But for most of us, a range of emotions is part of our human experience. We experience LOTS of different feelings throughout the day. And I say, let ‘em flow!
Have you ever noticed how it feels when someone tells you how you “should” be feeling? Or, worse, “don't feel that way”? It feels rotten when you feel bad or angry or whatever and then you add self-criticism to the mix. Those “shoulds” and “shouldn'ts” tend to come with plenty of guilt, a hearty dose of disappointment, and a fair amount of inadequacy. Lovely, aren't they?
You're Doing Fine!
The “shouldn'ts” that tell us to avoid legitimate feelings are the worst. Just because we think or feel something doesn't mean we are bad parents, or that we are necessarily going to act on negative feelings. It is quite common, for example, for parents to go through stages when they simply do not enjoy being a parent. Radical, I know! But making ourselves wrong for feeling that way only makes things worse!
This is especially true for families of kids with complex issues. We “should” do everything we can, like make accommodations and shift expectations; but, we “shouldn't” get frustrated or annoyed or depressed about it? Really? Anyone else notice the trap we've set for ourselves?
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Your Feelings Can Work For (Or Against) You
Let's be serious – this parenting stuff is hard work, and it's not always a rewarding job. Personally, there are definitely times when I find myself despising many of the things I'm responsible for doing or managing. So, when you have to continue to do the “grunt jobs” of parenting longer than the natural course of things would suggest – when, for example, your 18-year-old doesn't drive or your 20-year-old can't do laundry – of course you're going to get exasperated sometimes! If you bottle those feelings up, and make yourself wrong for feeling them, it's actually a recipe for depression.
When we let feelings happen, they will usually run their natural course. Feelings enable us to deal with what is happening in our lives. Only then can we make conscious choices that include intelligent thought. Feelings are actually a springboard for action, although sometimes they spring us from one emotion to another.
Think about it – ever had one of those times when you started off crying and ended up laughing? We are so resilient. Our brain is wired to help us process our life experiences, if only we give it the chance.
Not Easy, But You Can Do This
The feelings that come up for parents of complex kids can be intense – like regular parenting feelings on steroids. Somehow, everything seems to be magnified. Fear, loneliness, isolation, doubt – these are all the more pronounced in a families with ADHD, anxiety, autism, depression, and more. Thankfully, joy, pride, excitement, and optimism are equally as enhanced.
So before you get down on yourself for feeling overwhelmed, or put-upon, or scared, or sad, try giving your feelings a chance to exist without suppressing them. They are just feelings, and they are all yours. Spend some time with them. Acknowledge how real they feel. Let them happen for a bit.
When you allow yourself to experience a “negative emotion” without making yourself guilty or wrong – or trying to make it go away – you may be surprised at how little time that feeling lasts. Strange as it may sound, give all of your feelings a chance to have their moment in the sun – not just the "happy" ones.
One Simple Strategy
So what am I suggesting here? It's quite simple: permission. That's it: give yourself permission to feel your feelings. Talk it out. Cry it out. Run it out. Whatever it takes, validate your own feelings and trust that they're valid.
And there's only one thing to be aware of: if it lingers too long, it's a sign that you could use a little extra help. That's a perfectly natural feeling, too! So feel the feeling ... and then get yourself some help. You deserve it -- and so does your family.
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