How many of us avoid situations, people, memories, and many other things in life which trigger an unpleasant emotion inside us? At one point or another we have all avoided these triggers because we don’t like the negative emotions that we experience. The problem with this is that when don’t allow ourselves to experience these very emotions we also don’t allow ourselves to let go and release these emotions so that they can transform us and teach us something about ourselves.

Knowing more about emotions can actually be empowering and liberating. Emotions are there as a guide in our life and it is important that we listen and pay attention to them. They help to guide us, to communicate to us and to others, and they also help us to problem solve.

So, here are a few important steps in helping you learn, understand and make your emotions work for you:

1. Firstly, identify that you are experiencing an emotion. For example, when you notice that you are experiencing a particular emotion, really notice it and pay attention to it, as if you are watching it on a screen. Try and take a step back from it.

2. Label it or give it a name, for example: “I’m experiencing butterflies in my stomach”, or “There’s that burning sensation in my chest”, or “I’m feeling sad”. This part is really crucial. When you skip this part, or push the emotion aside, you actually give it more power. Emotions are like toddlers. They keep nagging at you until you give them some healthy attention.

3. Try to process it or understand it if possible. For example: “I’m feeling sad because my boyfriend broke up with me”, or “I’m feeling rejected because I wasn’t invited”, or “I’m angry because he blames me”. This step is important because it helps to give you some clarity on your emotional experience but more importantly it validates your emotional experience. When we judge ourselves for a particular emotional experience we only intensify that emotion or cause other unpleasant emotions.

So, whatever the emotion, the most important thing is to start to accept it rather than judge it. In accepting emotions you start to accept yourself and that in itself is very liberating.

Suzana Petrozzi, Wellness Psychologist.