I am always inspired by how naturally children are wired to regulate emotions. I was visiting a friend who shared with me how profound her three year-old daughter’s insight is into emotional pain. My friend had recently endured an emotionally painful loss, and through her grief she was tearful several times a day. Abigail sought to understand her mother’s emotions “Are you sad mommy?” Too help her mother find comfort, she found a framed photo of the two of them smiling, taken while they were on vacation and enjoying poolside sunshine. She held the photo up to her mother and said, “We were happy in this picture, we’ll be happy again Mama.”
It’s so true! Difficult emotions like emotional pain, despair, regret, distress are incredibly uncomfortable at times. We often don’t’ want to feel or be in this state when the emotion is heightened. But what we do know about emotions is that they don’t last forever. It’s possible- just like Abigail said to feel different again.
If we can imagine our emotions as a wave, that will swell with intensity, and remember we just need to ride it out, we can look forward and anticipate the reprieve from the discomfort. The wave may come and go several times. To reduce the suffering of the discomfort of the emotion, it’s important to pay attention and become familiar with the times the wave has diminished and rushed against the shores.
When emotions are intense and unbearable, the urge may be to block, ignore, or push away the feelings. Issues with poor sleep, depression, or physical pain (headaches and muscle tension) can be a result of this.
Approaching this with an open mind of acceptance that “this is how I feel in this moment” and understanding the emotion is like a “wave that will soon diminish and just needs to rise and fall”; emotional healing will happen naturally and the pain becomes more and more tolerable in time.