How to Ease Your Suffering and Confusion by Deciphering Your Emotions


“The
symphony
of
bodily
feeling,
mental
thoughts,
and
images
is
emotion.
It
is
the
symphony
on
which
people
must
learn
to
focus,
to
understand
their
inner
stirrings
and
to
harness
its
message.”
~Dr.
Leslie
Greenberg

Like
most
people
in
our
Western
culture,
I
didn’t
learn
to
read
the
language
of
emotions
growing
up.
I
had
no
clue
that
our
emotions
are
purposeful
information
about
ourselves,
our
relationships,
and
our
experience
in
the
world
around
us.
They
actually
carry
messages
about
what
to
do—what
actions
to
take
to
meet
our
needs
for
safety,
balance,
and
contentment.

Like
all
people,
my
parents
were
a
product
of
their
generation
and
their
family
dynamics.
Both
of
their
childhoods
consisted
of
with
emotional
deprivation
and
trauma.

Like
all
humans,
they
did
their
best
to
survive.

Their
intolerance
to
deal
with
the
transgenerational
trauma
they
carried
led
them
to
numb
themselves
through
partying
and
drinking
every
weekend
to
avoid
their
pain.
In
the
eighties
this
resulted
in
relying
on
pretty
much
any
kid
from
the
neighborhood
to
babysit
me
and
my
brother.
One
of
those
babysitters
sexually
assaulted
me
when
I
was
seven.


I
had
no
skills
to
deal
with
all
of
my
feelings
from
this
and
other
life
experiences.
Like
all
kids,
I
adapted
quite
automatically
and
unconsciously
to
my
environment.

Like
many
victims
of
abuse,
I
tried
to
numb
out
and
not
feel.
I
started
experimenting
with
drugs
at
age
fourteen,
not
having
any
insight
that
I
was
drawn
to
teens
doing
the
same
because
we
were
all
trying
to
self-medicate—to
cope.
When
I
didn’t
have
drugs
to
help
me
zone
out,
I
ate.
And
ate
and
ate
and
hated
myself
for
it.

Of
course,
the
uncomfortable
feelings
would
be
only
temporarily
anesthetized,
inevitably
reappearing
with
equal
or
more
intensity.
I
felt
like
an
open
funnel
where
any
soothing,
satisfaction,
or
peace
I
experienced
siphoned
through,
leaving
me
again
faced
with
my
vulnerability,
like
a
dark
cloud
I
couldn’t
shake
that
brought
with
it
more
anguish
than
I
could
bear.

The
illusion
of
love
and
care
from
boyfriends
became
another
way
to
detract
from
the
shadow
within
and
distract
myself
from
negative
feelings.

A
history
of
ignoring
and
trying
to
avoid
my
feelings
meant
that
I
also
couldn’t
hear
their
messages
telling
me
“This
relationship
isn’t
good!”
I
heard
the
whispering
inner
voice
that
said
“leave
this
jerk,”
but
I
stayed
far
too
long,
not
trusting
or
believing
my
feelings
mattered.

The
earlier
abuse
and
unresolved
trauma
I
carried
had
eroded
my
sense
of
self-worth.
Without
knowing
how
to
read
the
cues
of
my
emotions
that
told
me
otherwise,
the
internalized
belief
that
I
didn’t
matter,
that
I
wasn’t
worth
protecting,
was
the
one
I
acted
from.

Although
I
was
desperate
to
just
feel
better,
the
choices
I
made
because
of
these
unconscious
beliefs
and
disconnection
from
my
emotions
left
me
feeling
worse
and
worse,
running
from
a
dark
shadow
that
followed
me
always
with
mere
momentary
lapses
of
relief.


Like
for
many
people,
it
took
a
level
of
pain
and
despair
that
was
no
longer
tolerable
for
me
to
change
the
course
of
my
life.

The
means
I
used
to
numb
myself
lost
their
effectiveness
to
numb
the
pain.
The
emotional
abuse
I
endured
by
my
boyfriend
put
me
in
a
trance
of
darkness
so
far
from
myself
that
“brainwashed”
is
the
closest
descriptor
that
comes
to
mind.

It
took
the
depth
of
this
darkness
before
I
finally
listened
to
the
inner
whisper—the
voice
of
something
or
someone
inside
me
that
said
“Enough.”
I
woke
up
out
of
what
seemed
like
a
trance
and
left
the
dysfunctional
community
I
was
in.
But
still
a
dark
cloud
followed
me.

I
made
many
steady
positive
changes
towards
being
healthy.
I
cut
out
the
toxins—both
substances
and
relationships.
I
went
back
to
school
and
exercised
regularly
(to
feel
better,
not
just
to
look
better).

I
learned
about
mindfulness
and
began
meditating
daily.
I
ate
healthier
food
and
slowly
and
steadily
started
to
treat
myself
like
my
own
close
friend.
Though
smaller,
and
with
breaks
of
light,
the
dark
cloud
continued
to
follow
me.

I
was
accepted
into
graduate
school
to
become
a
therapist
and
I
met
my
soul
mate,
but
I
still
didn’t
understand
my
emotions.

The
aha
moment
came
while
sitting
in
a
training
course
to
learn
about
emotion-focused
therapy
from
its
developer,
Dr.
Leslie
Greenberg.
The
missing
piece
of
the
puzzle
that
had
eluded
me
finally
landed.


Dr.
Greenberg
taught
that
emotions
are
actually
purposeful,
important,
and
meaningful
information.
Like
data,
when
understood
and
translated,
emotions
can
help
us
connect
with
our
needs
and
values.
They
are
the
clues
to
the
path
to
find
meaning
and
happiness
in
our
life.

I
had
spent
my
life
avoiding,
pushing
down,
and
viewing
feelings
as
the
greatest
nuisance—something
to
try
to
shut
down
and
get
rid
of.
It
rocked
my
world
to
learn
that
they
are
actually
purposeful,
natural,
and
wise—they
are
there
for
a
reason!

“How
is
everyone
not
freaking
out
right
now?”
I
wondered.

How
is
this
knowledge
not
everywhere,
in
every
school,
so
we
can
all
learn
the
skills
to
deal
with
our
emotions
and
not
suffer
so
much?
Why
is
knowledge
about
emotions
so
esoteric?

After
that
epiphany,
I
became
a
devout
emotion-focused
therapist,
training
as
a
clinician
and
finding
true
healing
working
with
Dr.
Greenberg
as
his
student
and
client.
I
finally
rid
myself
of
the
hanging
cloud
by
learning
how
to
process
my
deeply
suppressed
emotions
and
resolve
my
unfinished
businesses
of
the
past.

Transforming
my
relationship
to
my
emotions
was
the
missing
piece
that
allowed
me
to
fully
heal.
Learning
to
be
with
my
emotions,
investigate
them,
and
process
them
was
like
letting
go
of
100-pound
chains
shackled
around
my
body
all
these
years.

I
felt
free
and
empowered,
knowing
I
no
longer
had
to
run
from
myself.
I
could
decipher
the
inner
sensations
of
my
emotions
and
actually
use
them
to
get
out
of
life
what
I
want
and
need
for
peace
and
happiness.

For
the
past
decade,
I
have
taught
hundreds
of
people
how
they
too
can
ease
their
suffering
and
confusion
by
relating
to
their
emotions
differently,
with
mindfulness
and
compassion,
and
by
processing
the
unresolved
emotions
that
have
been
stored
as
their
own
personal
shadows.

Here
is
a
brief
synopsis
of
my
knowledge
about
emotions,
as
well
as
some
practices
that
can
help
you
transform
your
relationship
to—and
experiences
with—them.

The
Different
Types
of
Emotions

All
emotions
are
not
equal.
There
are
different
types
of
emotions—some
are
healthy
and
helpful,
while
others,
linked
with
social
conditioning
and
internalized
from
negative
experiences
are
less
healthy.
To
complicate
things,
emotional

expression

can
also
be
used
as
a
tool
to
try
and
get
our
needs
met.

Understanding
the
different
types
of
emotions
is
a
great
first
step
in
being
able
to
read
what
type
of
emotion
we
might
be
feeling.

1.
Core
Emotions

Core
emotions
are
a
source
of
intelligence,
hard-wired
into
us
and
available
from
two
months
old.
These
emotions
tell
us
about
what
to
get
more
of,
what
to
avoid,
and
about
the
state
of
our
relationship
with
others
in
the
world.

For
instance,
core
anger
informs
us
when
we
are
being
violated
or
our
boundary
is
being
crossed.
Sadness
is
a
core
emotion
we
feel
with
any
loss,
and
fear
is
a
hardwired
survival
emotion
to
let
us
know
when
there
is
a
threat
to
our
safety.

Core
emotions
tell
us
what
action
to
take
(e.g.,
core
anger
wants
assertive
empowered
action,
sadness
typically
wants
acceptance
and
comfort,
whereas
fear
will
tell
us
to
flee
for
safety).

If
they
are
responded
to
well
(considered
valid,
without
added
judgment
or
resistance),
they
leave
the
body
fairly
quickly.

But
if
core
emotions
are
not
responded
to
well
by
others
in
childhood,
and
especially
if
there
is
trauma,
the
emotions
can
be
imprinted
in
a
skewed
and
negative
way.

This
is
where
people
tend
to
feel
stuck
in
painful
emotions,
which
can
last
long
after
the
situation
that
caused
them—sometimes
for
years
(e.g.,
feelings
of
shame,
destructive
rage,
and
unresolved
grief).

For
me,
feelings
of
shame
and
unworthiness
were
imprinted
as
a
result
of
abuse.
These
core
emotions
(that
include
thoughts
and
beliefs)
needed
to
be
experienced
and
activated
in
order
to
access
the
adaptive
and
healthy
emotions
to
help
heal,
such
as
core
anger
and
self-compassion.

2.
Secondary
Emotions

Secondary
emotions
mask
the
core
emotions.
They
are
influenced
by
our
judgment
about
emotion.
They
include
internalized
messages
from
culture
about
what
is
permissible
(e.g.,
“boys
don’t
cry”).
They
can
also
be
a
form
of
self-protection
or
as
a
defensive
mode
(e.g.,
afraid
of
one’s
anger
or
ashamed
of
one’s
fear).

These
are
the
feelings
that
are
created
from
thoughts.
For
example,
if
you
have
a
negative
thought
about
yourself,
this
will
trigger
a
negative
feeling,
which
in
turn
triggers
another
negative
thought
and
there
you
are,
caught
in
a
negative
ruminative
loop.

3.
Instrumental
Emotions

This
is
a
type
of
emotion
that
small
children
try
on
to
see
if
they
can
get
their
wants
met
by
expressing
emotion,
like
the
toddler
who
cries
when
Mommy
says
“No”
to
a
second
cookie
(i.e.
“Crocodile
tears”).

If
Mommy
gives
in
and
gives
the
child
the
second
cookie,
the
child
learns
that
by
using
certain

expressions

of
emotion,
one
can
get
what
one
wants.
This
reinforces
the
use
of
instrumental
emotion,
which
is
basically
expressing
certain
emotions
to
manipulate
others
to
get
one’s
wants/needs
met.

Anger,
for
example,
can
also
be
instrumental,
like
when
people
walk
on
eggshells
around
a
family
member
and
give
into
their
demands
in
order
to
avoid
the
consequences
of
their
anger.
Here,
anger
is
not
primary,
but
is

instrumental

and
as
you
can
imagine,
a
big
problem
for
all
involved.

Practices
that
Help
You
Get
Better
at
Feeling

While
it
may
take
some
time,
following
these
steps
is
a
good
start
to
change
your
relationship
with
your
emotions
and
help
you
feel
better
by
become
emotionally
literate.

1.
Meditate

Practice
mindfulness
meditation
or
yoga
to
help
build
your
capacity
to
stay
present
in
your
body.
Mindfulness
meditation
has
been
proven
to
help
expand
your
“window
of
tolerance,”
which
refers
to
the
capacity
to
be
with
all
of
your
sensory
experiences,
including
uncomfortable
emotions.

2.
Mindset

Bringing
an
attitude
of
curiosity
and
care
to
your
inner
emotional
world
will
help
you
start
to
connect
with
your
emotions.
Investigate
and
challenge
any
internalized
myths/beliefs
that
emotions
(i.e.
tears)
are
weakness.
Understand
that
your
emotions
are
not
who
you
are—they
are
energy,
sensation,
and
experiences
all
humans
are
hardwired
to
have.
They
do
not
define
you.

 3. Self-reflection

Learning
to
pause
and
go
inward
to
investigate
your
emotions
is
essential
to
see
what
type
of
emotion(s)
you’re
experiencing.

Ask
yourself:

What
am
I
feeling?
Can
I
stay
with
it
long
enough
to
see
if
there’s
something
underneath?

See
if
you
can
name
what
you
might
be
feeling.
It’s
okay
to
guess
if
you’re
not
sure.

(“Is
this
sadness?
Fear?
Anger?
”)

If
you
feel
a
negative
emotion,
like
shame,
question
the
truth
of
the
thoughts
that
accompany
it
to
help
get
underneath
to
the
core
emotion.
For
example,
if
the
thought
is
I
suck
at
everything,

you
might
ask
yourself,
Is
that
true?

Then
ask,
Where
did
I
learn
that
I’m
not
good
enough
?”

Write
down
the
messages
you
were
taught
and
from
whom.
You
might
be
able
to
see
that
you
learned
this
from
somewhere.

Remember,
just
because
it
feels
real,
doesn’t
mean
it’s
true.
It
is
most
likely
one
of
those
skewed,
negative,
unhealthy
emotions
that
came
with
painful
learning
in
childhood
or
from
negative
or
traumatic
experiences
in
your
life.

Recognizing
our
use
of
instrumental
emotions
is
important
to
check
ourselves.
If
you
are
using
emotional
expression
to
get
another
person
to
respond
in
a
certain
way,
choose
to
be
truer
in
your
emotions.
Investigate
what
it
is
you

really

want
and
speak
directly
with
the
person
in
your
life
about
what
you
really
feel
and
what
you
need.

The
practice
of
mindfully
witnessing
and
reflecting
on
my
emotions
allowed
me
to
know
myself,
understand
my
feelings
and
needs,
and
ultimately
see
that
I
am
not
my
emotions.
They
are
important
information,
but
they
do
not
stay
stuck
and
they
do
not
define
me.
This
felt
incredibly
helpful
and
freeing.

4.
Express
your
emotions

Journal/write/paint/create
to
begin
to
connect
with
and
express
your
inner
feelings
in
some
way.

 5. Self-compassion

Sometimes
staying
with
our
emotions
is
hard.
Sometimes
we
close
off
or
shut
down
from
our
emotions,
which,
particularly
in
cases
of
trauma,
can
be
adaptive.
Bringing
an
attitude
of
care
and
friendliness
to
our
difficult
emotions
is
essential.

Not
knowing
what
we’re
feeling,
or
feeling
something
other
than
happy,
needs
to
be
held
without
judgment.

As
we
work
to
learn
the
language
of
our
emotions
and
relate
to
ourselves
with
understanding,
it
helps
to
approach
our
experiences
with
kindness,
patience,
and
compassion.
We
are
all
feeling
beings,
and
we
all
suffer
at
times
in
our
lives.
Reminding
ourselves
of
this
is
paramount
to
healing
and
being
better
at
feeling.

You
will
find
that
practicing
these
steps
will
transform
your
experience
of
feeling.
Over
time,
you
will
come
to
see
that
many
emotions,
when
they
arise
and
are
not
judged,
dissolve
naturally
without
activating
stories
of
the
mind
or
creating
drama
or
painful
narratives.

When
we
investigate
the
stronger
emotions
that
have
deeper
meaning
for
us
and
relate
to
issues
of
importance,
we
can
close
in
on
them
with
curiosity
and
openness,
able
to
identify
their
inherent
messages
and
heed
their
call
to
connect
with
our
inner
most
needs
and
desires.
We
can
connect
with
our
true
self.

Getting
better
at
feeling
completely
transformed
my
life.
Thinking
back
to
the
times
when
I
couldn’t
bear
to
be
with
any
of
my
feelings,
drowning
myself
in
anything
I
could
to
not
feel,
it’s
like
I
was
a
completely
different
person.
Eons
away
from
my
true
self.

Of
course,
I
was
still
me.
The
difference
is,
I
learned
that
my
emotions
are
an
importance
source
of
intelligence
in
life.
I
learned
how
to
read
the
messages
of
my
emotions
and
to
use
them
to
connect
with
myself,
which
ultimately
led
me
to
pursue
my
dreams
and
my
purpose.
Which
I
realized
is
to
help
others
do
the
same.

About

Angele
Close

Dr.
Angele
Close
is
a
Clinical
Psychologist,
Certified
Mindfulness
Meditation
Teacher,
and
Emotion
Coach.
Her
mission
is
to
conquer
emotional
illiteracy
by
helping
people
develop
the
skills
they
need
to
live
more
awakened,
fulfilling
and
purpose-driven
lives.
You
can
access
your
Free
Emotional
Resilience
Guidebook
on
her
website:

www.drangeleclose.com.
Find
her
meditations
on

Insight
Timer and
follow
her
on

Instagram.

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a
typo,
an
inaccuracy,
or
something
offensive?
Please

contact
us
so
we
can
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it!