Legalize Your Emotions
Louise Morganti Kaelin


For most of us, when we think about being our "best" selves, there is a sense of depth, breadth and richness.  We see ourselves, in the future--calm, collected, wise, joyful, experiencing all the top-shelf positive emotions.

I believe that picture of life is definitely the goal of living our best life; however it can be a misleading picture.  As a rule, when we visualize ourselves in that moment of living our best life, it's important to remember that's exactly what it is -- a moment.  It's precisely the same as when we capture a memory of a wonderful trip or vacation.  We tend to isolate a moment that best represents the feeling we tie to the memory of that trip.  It rarely means that you felt that feeling for every single moment.

Not only is life like that -- a whole gamut of emotions -- but it's SUPPOSED to be like that!  In fact, living our best life is about experiencing the full joy of being human, and that is not always joyful.  So how do we reconcile feeling all those negative emotions with living our "best" life?  The secret to living our best human life is to give ourselves permission to feel everything, but to not get stuck in the negative emotions.  It really is that simple!

Every single feeling you feel is valid and legitimate.  It may not always be "appropriate," but the fact remains that you are feeling it, and that makes it legal.  We often do more harm by trying to "not feel" negative emotions than by allowing them out.

Here are some suggestions for going "through" the mountain instead of looking for a way around, over, or under the mountain:

1.  Remember that the goal of self-development is to grow into someone who can handle anything that comes your way.  We can't do that if we are trying to pretend that we are not having a negative response right now.  We almost never try to hide a positive emotion; we need to expand that philosophy into all emotions.

2.  The emotion is not bigger than we are.  Sometimes we are fearful of allowing ourselves to really go with an emotion because it threatens to overwhelm us.  In reality, that almost never happens.  What makes the feeling so powerful is the energy we put into not admitting we are feeling it.  Fear, anger, guilt, and resentment--these are all like small children pulling at your leg.  They get louder and louder until you finally ask what they want.  Ninety-nine percent of the time, their response is "nothing."  What they wanted was your attention, and now that they have it, they can move on.

3.  Stay in the present; articulate exactly what the feeling is.  We can often be so afraid of feeling negative emotions that we lump a whole gamut of emotions together.  In fact, there is value in being able to identify exactly what you are feeling.  For example, there is a world of difference between "apprehensive" and "paralyzed with fear," yet we often don't make the distinction.  We just generalize the feeling and we say we are afraid.  For me, being apprehensive doesn't necessarily mean an inability to take action.  There is something going on, yes, but it could be as simple as being afraid of something I've never done before.  Taking the time to get clear can often get you moving again.

4.  Don't try to "rise above it."  I often have clients tell me they feel they shouldn't feel or encourage the negative feeling because they are on a path of evolving.  Allowing the negative emotion appears contradictory to them.  Again, it isn't the emotion, or feeling the emotion, that gets in the way of our personal growth, but how long we spend feeling it.  I once knew a person who was quite proud of the fact that he never got angry.  As I reflected on this, I was graced with an awareness.  It was true--he never got angry--but it was because he was ALWAYS angry.  He never had to "get" there.  That anger came out in behavior we would classify as passive aggressive.  True, it was never overt or loud, but it ran through each and every interaction he had.  How could that possibly be better then never getting or showing anger?

5.  Set a time limit on how long you are willing to vent, rant or whine.  Five minutes is usually a good time frame.  Most of us will have exhausted all that negativity by the end of 5 minutes and we will have freed up a ton of energy that we can put to work on achieving our goals.  If you feel that 5 minutes isn't enough, then wait some time (perhaps 2 to 4 hours) and then give yourself 5 more minutes.  The very act of setting a time limit gives you a sense of control over the feeling that helps put it into perspective.

6.  When an emotion hovers just under the surface, try to bring it out.  Watch a movie that will bring out the tears (or the right McDonald's commercial).  Some movies that make me cry (just about every single time I see them) are:  Pay it Forward, An Affair to Remember, Terms of Endearment and all three of the Lord of the Rings movies.  I'm sure you can think of a few of your own.  Rent the movie, get out the Kleenex and let yourself go.

7.  Find a physical means of releasing negative energy.  It may be putting extra energy into physical exercise you are already doing (walking, jogging, bike riding, etc). or going for a full-out release of the energy by slamming into a punching bag, screaming at the top of your lungs, etc.  The key here is to release the energy--so that you can be free of it.  It is not meant to be directed at anyone.

8.  Don't forget the power of the written word.  Take time to sit down and write out what you are feeling.  Any way that you are able to clarify what you are feeling is good.  In the heat of any emotion, most of us have the same thoughts rumbling through our brain.  Writing it out can bring clarity, and more importantly, release.  If someone else is involved, try writing a letter or postcard that you burn instead of sending.

9.  A negative response is just that--a response that comes unbidden and not through the brain.  It is never logical and always needs to be acknowledged and validated.  It is possible, however, to allow logic to dissipate the energy.  If that works, fine.  If not, try a physical release.

10.  Don't allow any emotion to stop you from taking action.  I'm sure you've heard the phrase, "Feel the fear and do it anyway."  Allowing yourself to take action despite the fear is what makes a true hero.  Fear can often be the sign of good common sense kicking into action.

11.  Become aware of your personal response to fear.  For example, I have found multiple times in my life that sickness is a "legitimate" reason for not doing what I know I need to do but am afraid to do.  I now know to ask the question when I'm sick:  is this real?  Or is this a fear that I'm unwilling to look at?  Most of us have something that we use to keep us from taking action.  Look for yours! 

Louise Morganti Kaelin.  Louise was a Life Success Coach who passed on in 2011.  Rest in peace, Louise!


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