Giving all our Emotions a Seat at the Table (not just the pretty ones)
Wednesday, March 11th, 2020
I was walking home from school this morning and I was thinking about a relationship that I think has permanently ended. It made me feel super sad. I don’t remember exactly what I said to myself – but essentially I shut down giving myself space to feel sadness, disappointment and frustration.
My default setting is to try to talk myself out of my emotions, at least the negative ones and if I’m honest, sometimes the positive ones as well. Not sure if this is programming from childhood or part of my DNA (I’m a one on the Enneagram and sitting right next to the nine – I have to admit that I thrive when there is harmony) or maybe it’s something else. But it’s there and active and alive and something I have to continually be aware of.
When the negative emotions start to surface – I hear – “you shouldn’t feel this way” or “be grateful for what you do have” or “you really just need to move on”.
As I rounded the bend and headed down my street – I realized that I needed to give the sadness, the frustration, the disappointment a seat at my table. Each one of these emotions deserves space to breathe, space to have a voice, space to be heard and seen.
I’ve been using this metaphor recently and when I am feeling overwhelmed, I will literally walk out to my dining table and sit at the head of the table. (I know, I’m weird.) I will then look at the empty chairs around the table and acknowledge that there are emotions and feelings that I am experiencing that all deserve a space.
Sadness – you sit here. Frustration – come on over. Disappointment – I see you – sit there.
At this point – it’s less about solving the overwhelm and more about acknowledging the overwhelm and experiencing it in order to work through it.
And this is the harder work – to acknowledge the emotions and feelings and sit with them versus to shush them and push them away Pushing them away leads to isolation, loneliness, despair, stress. Acknowledging them leads to connection, clarity, authenticity.
Depending on where you are at in this journey of betrayal – your table might be a 6-seater. Or – if you are like me in the early days – I was looking at a banquet sized table – many many emotions and thus many many chairs.
Own your table and make space for those emotions!
So I gave the emotions this morning a seat at the table. I saw my disappointment. And then I explored it. I heard my frustration. And then I looked at what about the situation was causing me to feel frustrated. I felt my sadness. And acknowledged the reasons within that were causing the sadness to bubble up.
Fast forward to this afternoon – nothing has changed in the relationship. Nothing has been solved. But I feel more whole versus segmented. Seeing and hearing the emotions has allowed me to be more deeply connected to myself. I feel authentic and can breathe.
I’d love for you to try this exercise next time you sense that there are some heavy emotions bubbling up. Give them ALL a seat at your table. See them, hear them, give them space to breathe.
Then explore the emotions. Here are some questions you can ask yourself:
What is causing this emotion to rise up?
What about this emotion scares me?
What would be the benefit of seeing and hearing the emotion and not doing anything else about it?
And for those of us that are ready to fix: what does this emotion say about a next step I need to take in my journey?
While it’s true our emotions shouldn’t always be the predictor for the next decision we make – our emotions are there for a reason. They are God-given, apart of our heart and soul. As Proverbs 4:23 says –
Above all else, guard your heart. For everything we do flows from it.
Let’s remember this as we go about our days. Let’s honor and guard our hearts as we acknowledge what we are feeling, give the emotions a seat at the table and allow them to be seen and heard.
As always, would love to hear your thoughts.
xo – Shelley