There’s a scene from Four Christmases, where the main character’s nephew unexpectedly learns there’s no Santa Claus. Once he finds out this heartbreaking information, the little boy takes off his clothes, jumps out the window, and runs away.
“When he gets to hurtin’ inside and can’t use his emotion words, he takes to streakin’,” his mother says, as the little boy leaves his underwear behind.
We’ve all been there, I think, running away from the thing that hurt us, our drawers limp on the windowsill. We’ve all had a moment where we’ve felt an emotion but didn’t know how to express it in a healthy way; however, since this movie released in 2008, I’ve noticed not knowing how to use your emotion words can present differently in each of our lives.
A personal example I have is my grandmother. Her sister is in a nursing home, and because my grandmother is in her nineties, there’s really nothing she can do about it. One time after visiting my great aunt, my grandmother told me about how she broke out into hives. Eventually, she realized it was because she was worried about her sister.
Books like The Body Keeps Score and people like, Louise Hay have written about how the energy of our emotions can be stored in the body, resulting in specific pain or illness. So, when my grandmother retold this story, it seemed obvious to me what had happened. Instead of being able to say something like, “I feel helpless because my only living sister is living with dementia in a nursing home” or even being able to sit and cry about it (remember, my grandmother lives by if you’re sad, you better scratch your butt and get glad), she seemed to have held on to her real emotions, and the result was hives.
A more global rendition of not knowing how to use your emotion words is when Will Smith slapped Chris Rock. Although this event was unfortunate for multiple reasons, it was a great example of what can happen when you don’t know how to take time to process emotions in a healthy way. Not only can you hurt yourself, but you can also hurt others and jeopardize your career. I don’t think it’s ever okay to put your hands on another person; however, this moment was an opportunity to show us that no matter how happy you may appear on the outside, and no matter how much money you may have, anyone can have unresolved issues that may result in not knowing how to use emotion words.
Finally, I’ve had several moments where I’ve learned to bury emotions so deep that when they resurfaced, I didn’t know how to deal with them, much less communicate how I felt in an effective way. I’ve written about that here and here. But luckily, I’ve taken time to learn how to use my emotion words so that I no longer injure myself or others. Here’s how:
- Learn to feel emotions when they appear. For example, if something makes you sad, then take time to notice the sadness in your body: where is it? How does it make you feel? You may even want to announce to yourself, “I am sad.”
- Consider journaling about why you’re having the emotion. In the Will Smith scenario, I’d bet money he wasn’t really upset about Rock’s joke; something else was going on. We’re no different than a celebrity. Sometimes, what’s angered us is an unaddressed trigger. That’s worth exploring.
- Find ways to release the emotion. One thing that helps me is exercising. Last year, I was so negatively affected by someone’s actions that the space around my heart physically hurt. The only thing that helped was a thirty-minute run/walk on the treadmill. Once I was done, I felt lighter and less bothered.
- If another person is involved in your painful emotions, then maybe you need to have a conversation with that person…when you’re no longer angry, of course. Write out what you will say in a loving way, and then give them a call, so you can engage in positive dialogue about the issue.
Welp. That’s all I’ve got today. Feel free to add any advice in the comments. I’m all about helping one another as a community.
If you want to hear about the three levels of emotional fitness, then watch Mastinkipp’s explanation: