Q: I have a difficult time distinguishing my thoughts from my feelings/emotions. If I change my mindset to focus on gratitude and the positive, then I, in turn, tend to experience less “negative” feelings. I really want to live a wholehearted life. How do I know if I am repressing emotions or just shifting perspective?
A: So, a phrase that comes up frequently in my coaching work is the idea of "honoring" the emotions that arise. When I say "honor," I mean first acknowledging the feelings that are present.. and giving them a kind of proper respect, not simply dismissing them or invalidating them simply because they are unpleasant or "negative." Because every emotion is a kind of messenger.. each may have vital information to deliver & it's up to us to wisely use that information for our well-being.
Anger, for instance, may signal that a boundary has been crossed, a sense of safety has been compromised. One doesn't have to erupt in angry behavior to simply acknowledge... "Yes, anger is present here. Something happened that evoked anger in me. Now I get to decide what to do about it." But if we sweep the anger entirely under the rug, we miss the message it may be trying to tell us, the situation it is trying to alert us to.
So, as you make that pivot towards gratitude & a positive mindset, can you still make room for the challenging emotions to be acknowledged & respected? "I'm grateful in this moment.. but I'm also acknowledging that something occurred that angered me. I'm not going to let anger run the show, but I'm going to respect the fact that anger is present."
Ultimately, I think honesty is always our guide here. If you're being emotionally honest, even as you are choosing gratitude or positivity, you're still living wholeheartedly in my opinion. But it's when we start lying to ourselves.. pretending that emotions aren't there when they are in fact screaming at us from within.. that's when we're in trouble. Always let simple honesty guide the way.
- Matthew Robertson