Name It to Tame It
Recently, I worked with a mom that had a bad experience at the school her kiddo’s go to. Since the incident, she found it overwhelming to step foot inside of the school, though she loved the place, and found that she was resorting to dropping off her kids at the door. Previously she walked in with her kids and touched base with their teachers. She knew she couldn’t go on like this. The longer she stewed in her emotional headspace, the stronger the story of negative emotions got. I call this the lizard-brain high-jacking.
We all have our own similar story. When we experience strong emotions, they will strengthen over time until we process them. So how can we process these emotions that keep poking at us and causing our suffering?
First - don’t judge the emotion. We spend so much time labeling emotions as good or bad. In fact, we are not in control of our emotions. We can only control the feelings that we derive from our emotions. Emotions are sent to us to teach us about ourselves. They are constantly in motion, changing like the wind. It is not an accident the words are nearly the same; emotion, motion. Instead of judging them, be mindful of the existence of the emotion.
Second - name it to tame it. This takes an incredible amount of mindfulness. As you begin to teach yourself to name your emotions it will feel awkward, unless you are already a master of your zen. Name it to tame it, does not require that you start saying your emotions out loud. But begin by silently naming it for your brain. If it is a strong emotion you might have to resort to naming it out loud. You can do this in the mirror or by telling a friend. Some emotions are deeply rooted and present themselves in ugly ways and need more processing than “name it to tame it.” These dinosaur-sized emotions should be written down. You don’t have to elaborate in a novel form (unless you want to). Writing it down allows the brain to see the emotion outside of you. When the brain believes you have addressed the concern it brought you through the emotion, it will allow you to get back into your logical state again.
My client reported back that as she walked into the school the next day with her kids, she froze in her own emotional high-jacking. Immediately she put these techniques into play. As she recognized the emotions gripping her, she began to name them without judgement. Slowly her shoulders dropped away from her ears, her chest relaxed, and she was able to smile again. She suddenly felt present for her kids and able to live in the moment with them again.