Are you using your emotions to inform you or are you letting them control you?
Your mental and emotional baggage is primarily responsible for creating the discrepancy between what it is that you say you want and what you are actually experiencing on a daily basis. It’s the dominant driver behind your choices and behaviors, and can be the number one thing that derails you in your day-to-day life.
Can you think of a time when nothing was going your way and you blew up at your kids or partner the minute you walked in the door at home? Or, how about when you had looming deadlines or projects at work piling up, and the pressure built until you either got sick, quit your job, or exploded altogether? Can you recall a time when your partner’s behavior was irritating you and instead of having a calm, centered, and balanced discussion with the intention of resolving it, you instead said nothing, let it fester, and then sabotaged the relationship in one way or another? These are all examples of how your emotional baggage can derail you in everyday situations.
Your emotions—or feelings—are an integral aspect of who you are—good, bad, and everything in between. Yet, you may not have not been taught how to navigate emotional upset in a productive and compassionate way, so the end result is often explosive. When you learn to accept your emotions, to lean into them, and be present with them in a healthy way, you can learn from them and begin to use them as a means of growing and evolving into a better person.
Power of Emotions
Your outer world is a reflection of your inner world—and vice versa. When you carry an inventory of unresolved negative emotions within you, you will filter your conversations, interactions, and experiences with others through your baggage, and react in a way that perpetuates more of the same in your outer world. For example, if you believe that you are stuck in life, and that you’ll never find a way out, the negative emotions associated with your beliefs will reinforce the way you see yourself in the world. You will begin to see yourself as being stuck in every area of your life.
Your emotions can be the thing that derails you, or they can inform you. Emotional intelligence is the differentiating factor—the key component to better understanding yourself and those with whom you interact. When your emotions inform you, you’re able to observe yourself and how you are feeling, taking it in as information without being affected. You know it’s emotional baggage when your emotions affect you to the point that you are charged up, feeling righteous in your position, or you’re adamantly defending or protesting what is happening.
Of course, there are times when heightened emotions are a normal reaction to something. For example, if you see someone mistreating their pet, it would be normal to feel anger. When someone you love passes away, it is appropriate to feel deep sadness. When you start a new job that is going to challenge you, a little bit of fear is perfectly acceptable because you’re entering a learning curve.
With emotional intelligence, you will allow yourself to feel your emotions without reacting in a harsh and unrealistic way. And you’ll have the ability to harness the energy of the emotion to help you move through the experience, and to glean the lessons or wisdom from it, while maintaining a level of awareness around how you are navigating the situation. If you continue to struggle with mental and emotional baggage, you will be more apt to overreact without thinking, go straight to blaming yourself or others, and lead with a propensity toward sabotage, gossip, judgement, and harsh behaviors. You will be ruled by the voice of negativity.
The S.T.O.P. acronym is one of the most effective tools for creating a pattern interrupt (an interruption of your current thought process or emotional state) whenever you find yourself being affected or triggered by another person or circumstance.
S = Stop everything the moment you become aware that you’re feeling charged up. This will create some space between you and the situation.
T = Take a deep breath, and bring yourself into a state where you can refrain from reacting.
O = Objectively observe what is happening in the moment and how you are feeling. Give yourself a few moments to pull back your energy so that you can become conscious of your thoughts, words, and actions prior to moving forward.
P = Proceed cautiously and consciously in a way that will unfold potential rather than perpetuate any drama.
Interpreting Your Experiences
One of your biggest stumbling blocks is that your first response tends to be negative when things aren’t going your way. Some psychologists would suggest this is because of your programing or hunter-gatherer tendencies, while others would just say it’s because you had a bad day. Regardless of origin, rather than seeing things in the positive, you are trained to look for the negative in everyday life situations. Let’s look at this more closely.
As a human being, you perceive your experiences through sensory perception (taste, touch, sight, sound, and smell) and then go through a process of interpreting your experiences. Interpretations are your way of assigning a meaning to the events and experiences in your life, also known as “meaning making.” There are two types of interpretations: those that empower you, and those that disempower you. Empowering interpretations will help you discover the gifts or lessons in every situation, and will help you to move powerfully forward in your life. Empowering interpretations position you in a place of empowerment. Disempowering interpretations, on the other hand, will make you feel like you’re a victim, tether you to generalized negativity, and ultimately keep you stuck in the past.
An important thing to remember is that none of the interpretations you choose are any more or less true than another. Your interpretations are very real to you, and the point to keep in mind is that you always have the power to choose the meanings you assign to circumstances, events, and experiences in your life. Whenever you find yourself feeling triggered by another person or something that has happened, first begin with the S.T.O.P. acronym previously mentioned. This will help you create a pattern interrupt in the moment. Before proceeding, make a commitment to consciously choose an empowering interpretation that will enable you to get the most out of your experience and to move yourself forward. The more you focus on finding the positive, the more positivity you will begin to experience in your life.
It’s not to say that bad things don’t happen, or that you should pretend everything is amazing when it isn’t. It’s healthy to feel negative emotions rather than avoiding them. The idea is that you can harness the energy of positive emotions and empowering interpretations to grow and evolve, even as you’re moving through challenging times.