The Best Thing to Do When You Are Highly Emotional
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I am 9 years old, maybe 10.
For years, I’ve watched in envy as my father and my brother happily swim out in the ocean together during family beach trips.
Oh, I’ve tried to join them, gathering my courage and braving the waves, only to be put through a blender and spit back out on the sand every time.
My father has told me the secret maneuver. He’s demonstrated it many times. I’ve watched him and my brother do it successfully hundreds of times.
I’ve been too afraid to try.
Today, I’m so tired of running from the waves, I can’t help myself.
I have to try.
As I stand in the surf and face an on-coming wave, everything within me screams, “Run! Run! It’s going to tumble you!”
But at the last possible second, as the wave arches over me, I dive into the base. As hard as I can.
To my astonishment, I pop to the surface—on the other side of the breakers!
I body surf to shore and try again.
It works, again. Like magic.
I spend the entire afternoon taunting the very waves that once terrified me, learning just how close to let them come (ooops — not that close!) before I dive right through them.
Hope for Highly Emotional People
As I’m learning how to be less easily overwhelmed by emotion, this childhood memory has been a useful metaphor.
The word “overwhelm” means
- to cover or bury beneath a mass (such as floodwaters, debris, or an avalanche)
“Overwhelmed” comes from a word meaning “to bend all the way over” and another word meaning “to cover.”
If you’re a highly emotional person who also gets easily overwhelmed, perhaps you recognize that feeling of being smacked over and suffocated by feelings you didn’t ask for but suddenly have to deal with!
Healthy detachment is a lot like diving into the base of a wave.
It’s a way to
- PUSH PAUSE.
- get away from the flood of adrenaline that will blend you up and spit you back out dazed and frazzled.
- go some place safe.
The Promise of PUSH PAUSE
As we dive into the base of an emotional wave, we stay so much calmer than when we let the wave bowl us over.
- We’re not stuffing our feelings.
- We’re not detaching from our bodies in an unhealthy way.
- We’re not intellectualizing or people-pleasing.
We are taking a time-out.
We are making this promise to ourselves:
I will process my emotions, but I’ll do so on my terms, not theirs.
Boy would I appreciate help with my light switch of emotion when I am around a family member who enjoys putting you in uncomfortable positions, talks over and around you, goes out of his way to draw attention to your discomfort. I pray before we get there I talked to Jesus while we are there and I still allow it to happen. I know the key is to not allow it but my stubbornness or pride or…I don’t know Satan takes over and I fall on my face. He is the only person in my life that I react to this way.
Great post, Cheri! I’ve been subscribed for a little while, but am also visiting from Chatting at She Speaks. (I think I originally found your site from one of Emily’s link-ups?) This is a great metaphor! I never would have come up with it as I am the one on the shore watching the waves. (Also I currently live in Oregon where the water is c-c-c-cold!)
How many times do we see that the more we fight or run away from our feelings, the more they control us. Diving in is sometimes the only way to get through. Love it!
I am so looking forward to meeting you in a few weeks! As a fellow teacher, I would love to pick your brain about how you balance your blog and teaching. Anyhow, good to “meet” you and keep up the good work!
Heya Kendra — glad you find the metaphor useful, too! SOooo looking forward to seeing you soon…look forward to “talking shop” teacher-to-teacher! 🙂
I love this metaphor for overwhelming emotions. Thanks for a great way to think about my reactions.
Heya Sandi– So glad you found value in this!
Woohoo!! I need all of that I can get!!! Thanks!!!
I love love love this idea! I have to ask a stupid question tho…how do you do that in the middle of something that is overwhelming?
Heya Glenda —
That’s my next blog post! I’m trying to keep my posts under 500 words, so today’s blog is sort of a vision-casting post. Monday, I’ll share a how-to that I’m really excited about! It’s my current in-process “ah-HA!”
Cheri, this is so good and so helpful. I get so overwhelmed by waves of emotion in dealing with the emotions of my small children. Pushing pause is so important with them. To take a moment to remember they are still learning to deal with THEIR emotions…just like me. Thank you for this!
Jess — Oh, I SO remember those days! I wish I’d had more tools than just my “anxiety hammer” when my children were little. Although sometimes, it was downright funny. Annemarie’s first emotion word was “fuss-tated” and she’d use it when she couldn’t make something work the way she wanted to. Bless her heart that she could at least name it, even if she ended up in tears over it!