emotional shell game
I'm all for manufacturing an emotion. Maybe that sounds strange (if so - I get it, I really do), but it's something that I've always found helpful when I'm in a rough place.
If I'm upset, I have specific playlists that I know relax me or boost my mood. I have certain candles that make me happy. There are places that soothe me, just to be in them. If I combine two of these at the same time, I can almost always paint over the negative emotions with positive ones. 1
The other day, work had been kind of terrible and I came home in a bit of a snit. Forced myself outside on a walk…and you won’t believe this, but when the breeze ruffled my hair just as the cloud coverage faded, and the song I was listening to hit the bridge, I experienced an emotion I’m not even sure how to describe. I just felt very present and alive (& I did tear up, but no one was around to see it, so we keep this between us) and that’s all I can really say to explain it.
(Occasionally, I accidentally do this in the opposite direction. There are days when it’s a little gray and gloomy outside and I’m listening to music and thinking, I feel so low right now, why do I feel like this? Cut to five minutes later, when I decide to change my playlist and realize I was listening to - essentially - my Cinematically Melancholy playlist. Deep sigh. Well, of course.)
Along this same line, I'll sometimes try to redirect the emotion. When I'm very blue, but I can't quite pinpoint why or where the emotion stems from (and therefore, can't address it at the source), I'll go grab one of the sadder books off of my shelf and read through the most emotionally wrenching scene I can find. I've always been an easy crier - my tear ducts are a little overactive (which can be incredibly embarassing from time to time) - and even if I'm starting in the middle, I can pull that feeling back up once I'm in it.
Once I've sobbed my eyes out for about fifteen to twenty minutes to whatever sorrowful passage I’ve chosen, it's almost like I manage to pin that vague sadness emotion onto the book. I get the catharsis of crying, but after I calm down again, it feels like the emotion stays behind with the book and I feel a little lighter. (I’ve found this also works with Sad Movie Moment Compilations.)
I do this with anxious feelings, too. If I'm nervous about a presentation or an upcoming situation in my life, I'll watch a horror movie or something suspenseful. My brain picks up on the tense atmosphere of the movie and decides, "Oh, okay, I guess we're actually just scared about this movie!" 2
Neither of these are perfectly accurate practices, but I can trick myself out of the emotion about...hm, seventy-five percent of the time?
I had an old friend tell me once that the Sad Book Passage-catharsis thing made me sound, um, really odd. But my brain is firing all sorts of signals I have no control over! I don't find it all that weird to try to capture a little of that control back. People say Mind over Matter all the time, but when I'm attempting that and the conscious awareness of it isn't helping, I'm not above trying to trick my brain.
My brain makes me think there's something terrible in the room at all times! I'll pull a little Shell Game on it if I have to. "The Sadness is under this cup...follow the Sadness...are you watching?" Boom. Different cup.
All’s fair in love and using a little chicanery on your emotional state so that you can win the war.
Good luck out there,
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I mean, I do try to sit with, and make sense of, my emotions. But sometimes you don't want to deal with them, or you don't have the time or the energy. This is for those times.↩
I have a friend who does this, but convinces herself it’s actually excitement. So, in the few hours before a presentation, when the nerves start ramping up, she’ll just say to herself over and over, “Wow, I can’t believe how excited I am for this presentation!” I have not tried this method, as of yet, but she’s the honest type (and it’s pretty much the same thing as what I’ve experienced, in a different flavor), so I believe that it works for her!↩