power your advice

How to Avoid Emotional Constipation

Have you ever suffered from emotional constipation?

Do you ever run from feelings faster than the time it takes you to down your morning coffee?

Would you rather grab your cellphone than deal with a moment of boredom?

If so, you may be unconsciously using self-protection as a way to limit yourself, your growth, and your happiness.

I get it.

Sometimes feelings feel shitty.

And I, like most of us, tend to avoid the less pleasant ones.

There are times when I’d rather not feel bored so I incessantly scroll through my Facebook Newsfeed. But that desire to avoid the full range of human emotion is like buying a thermometer that doesn't read cold temperatures because I can't stand the cold. And that's a problem because whether or not I’m in temperature denial, I’ll still need a coat when I go outside.

Here’s the thing we often forget:

The things we feel are signals. They tell us things. Whether it’s physical or emotional, it's a valuable piece of information.

For example, you know when you trip on the sidewalk and immediately panic that everyone’s looking at you? I personally feel embarrassed and my ankle probably hurts though I’m too stubborn to act like it.

If I were to pause and think about it (instead of doing my awkward “I must have tripped on something” look and running out of there) what would those feelings telling me?

  • That I’m self-conscious.
  • That I’m distracted and not present.
  • That I should probably walk more carefully.
  • And while those are valuable pieces of information to remember, we often get stuck using those unprocessed feelings to shape our beliefs about ourselves. There’s a big difference between:

  • Calling that incident a mild embarrassment
  • Holding onto shame and defining myself as a clumsy indiot
  • So how do you avoid doing this?

    Learn to label.

    The better you are at labeling an emotion, the more self-awareness you’ll have.

    There’s a big difference between saying, “I’m sad” and going into self-pity mode and saying “I’m resentful toward her. I feel anger, shame and guilt.” Why does upping your emotional vocab matter? It allows us to move away from seeing the world in black and white. It allows us to see that emotions can coexist, making us happier and improving our self-concept.

    So here’s my challenge to you:

    Get over your need to be comfortable all the time. When you feel something come up, feel it, label it, decode it, and let it go. Or you can hold onto it and implode like a black hole of sorrow, filling your home with tchotchkes, cats, and used tissues.

    The choice is yours.