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revised March 24, 2011

Arrow BulletSelf Esteem: Understanding Yourself - Self Awareness

Managing Emotions

  • Feelings are neither right nor wrong. They are messages to be interpreted.
  • Listening to feelings is like tapping into an added resource, your intuition.
  • Intuition is as important as logic when making decisions, such as how and with whom you want to spend your time, which courses to take at school or where you are going to live.
  • Intuition warns you of trouble looming and of exciting opportunities.
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Common pitfalls in interpreting feelings

  • "What's wrong with me that I feel this way?"
  • "You make me feel so...
    angry / worried / frustrated..."
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Six new ways to interpret and manage feelings...

1. Listen to your feelings

  • Your feelings tell you what you really care about, and so, there's no right or wrong. Events and situations trigger feelings, but it seems the brain has little control of when a feeling will develop or what it will be. You do get to figure out what your feelings are telling you. Putting names to your feelings and taking time to think about what they mean helps you make good decisions. When you decide how important a situation is to you, you may have a different feeling about it the next time it occurs.
  • Other people are not responsible for your feelings. The good news is you're not responsible for other people's feelings, even though you may often hear, "You make me soooo angry!"
  • You are always responsible for your actions.
  • Denying feelings leads to confusion, resentment and physical stress. Even intense and uncomfortable feelings are softened when they are acknowledged without criticism or blaming. Allowing yourself to experience uncomfortable emotions means you are also freer to experience joy and peace.
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2. Think about how strong a feeling is.

  • Feelings go all the way from mild to very strong. Think about anger. What annoys you just a little? What ticks you off big time? It's healthy to feel the whole range of emotions. Do the things that make you feel angry have the same effect for your partner or your friend? Probably not. Each person's emotional responses are unique. Knowing this makes it easier to accept strong emotions in other people, even when you disagree. Low intensity or moderate emotion may not call for any action.
  • It may be enough to:
    • Be aware of the emotion and the circumstances
      in which it occurred.
    • Label it for yoursel
  • You may choose to express your feelings to someone else.
  • Tuning in to a positive emotion early on can lead you to exciting opportunities.
    Tuning in to an uncomfortable emotion before it is intense can prevent escalation of both the feeling and concern.
  • If the same emotion recurs ever more strongly with the same situation, it's a stronger message that something needs your attention.
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3. Chill out strong feelings.

  • You know when a feeling is really strong - you usually have sensations of the stress response - such as: lump in your throat, knot in your stomach, pounding heartbeat, or shaking knees. It's not okay to scream or throw stuff, and then say, I was so angry, I just blew . When feelings are intense, you need a way to cool down, or chill out. Then you can try to figure out what your feelings mean and decide what to do.
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4. Figure out what the feeling means.

  • If you feel sad, what is it that you have lost that means so much to you? How can you comfort yourself through this time? Do you need to ask for help?
  • If you feel angry, what is it that's bugging you? Is it something you can change or fix? If not, do you need to re-think your view of the situation and how you will respond to it in future?
  • When you're happy, enjoy it! You deserve good times. Then ask yourself: What is it about the scene that makes me feel so good? How can you re-create that kind of situation? ... Again and again!
  • If you feel afraid, what do you need to do to feel safe? Could you decrease your worry by planning ahead a little better next time? Do you need to talk positively to yourself to get through a stressful time?
  • And when you feel guilty... have you done something you know is wrong? Do you need to apologize or take steps to fix the situation? If you don't believe what you've done is wrong, is there a reason to feel guilty?
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5. Express the feeling.

  • Tears and laughter are great releases. Music, art, poetry, sports, talking things over with a friend or writing in a journal are other possibilities. Find your own personal ways to work through feelings. Putting feelings into words is sometimes hard, but other people tune out yelling, whining and complaining. Check out communication skills. Using "I" messages to express feelings and ask for what you need will boost self-confidence and earn the respect of others.
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6. Let it go...

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Revised: March 24, 2011


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