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Emotional Management

By Rita Maulucci

“I was born of a feeling bursting, into the world a tear. Discard your mask! I must stream down your face for I am life.”
Walter Rinder

Our feelings are hugely influential in terms of determining our behaviour and why we are who we are. Many of us are not aware that we are often guided by our feelings.

Feelings, like thoughts, are real forces. They are valid and an essential part of living and they tell us an enormous amount about ourselves and who we really are. They guide us, help us to fulfil our needs and allow us to experience a strong sense of self. They tell us if we are living life to the fullest. Helen Keller understood the importance of feelings when she wrote:

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched; they must be felt.”

A beautiful message to all of us – Helen Keller was deaf, blind and without speech, but this did not prevent her from living a full life because she chose to experience her life through her feelings and with an open heart.

All feelings are normal and natural, whether they are positive or negative; indeed humans have labelled them as such but in reality it is legitimate and necessary to express and experience them all. Being angry is just as an important experience as being in love and the constructive expression of all types of feelings is healthy and necessary for a balanced life. Feelings are one expression of our true self, of who we really are. Emotional problems arise when we become stuck in certain feelings, particularly those that seem negative, such as sadness, hurt, anger, fear, despair etc. and they begin to interfere with our day to day life.

Nonetheless, feelings can be very confusing. You may have experienced feelings of such intensity and such poignancy that you have become lost for words in describing them let alone understanding them. Sometimes our feelings change so rapidly that we feel we are on an ‘emotional roller-coaster’ where again we are lost for words. Amazing and confusing and perhaps uncomfortable as these feelings are however, by knowing we have strong feelings we ultimately know that we are experiencing life to its fullest.

Feelings are energy

Feelings, like thoughts, are energy which can be positive or negative. The scientific community has successfully demonstrated that energy can be converted into other forms, but it cannot simply be destroyed or eradicated. Something happens to it. For example, the energy created in the combustion engine is converted into power for cars, i.e. energy is converted into a useful form. Similarly, once we are in possession of a feeling, we can do any number of things with it, but we cannot destroy it or not have it. We may not like the way we feel sometimes but we cannot simply ‘drop the feeling.’ The feeling may convert into behaviour, we may just store it in our subconscious or it may convert into helping us learn and grow, but we cannot rid ourselves of it. The challenge is to acknowledge it and accept it so that we can use it to experience life fully and allow growth to occur.

Defining Feelings

Let’s look at feelings in more detail. Feelings are made up of emotions, moods and body sensations. When we speak of feelings therefore in the context of this program, we will be referring to the following three types of feelings.

Emotions: Emotions result when feelings are affected by beliefs. For example, you may believe that you should not be tired so you feel guilty, or you believe you should not be rejected so you experience the emotion of hurt. Examples of emotions include fear, anxiety, anger, sadness, depression, loneliness, helplessness etc.

Moods: Moods are vague feelings of discomfort and distress but are usually not thought of as serious enough to be perceived as major problems. Examples of moods are feeling nervous, insecure, not at ease socially, not satisfied, being upset etc. Even though moods are not as strong as feelings they are still important because they influence our everyday life.

Body Sensations: These are physical feelings such as symptoms and bodily aches and pains. For example, butterflies in the stomach usually accompany nervousness, fear induces a fast pulse rate, stress may lead to headaches or ulcers, etc.

Denying Our Feelings

Most of us would have experienced ignoring or blocking our feelings to some extent. This is denial and when we are in denial we essentially do not acknowledge that we have certain feelings. That is, we pretend the experience did not affect us and this leads to emotional imbalance and confusion. Denial is brought about by powerful mental conditioning which stops us from being exposed to any overwhelming negativity that lies within us. There are four types of denial and they are as follows:


One option, very popularly used in relation to negative feelings, is to suppress feelings because we really don’t know what else to do with them. Suppression simply means resisting our experiences and burying the feelings that are triggered. It is something most of us do. We resist certain feelings because we think that they are bad for us and we accept others because they are good for us. There is a deal of social pressure not to express negative feelings like sadness, grief, anger and frustration. For example, if a loved one dies we may bury ourselves in our work or in some project, thus denying that we may be experiencing grief – we avoid it and essentially suppress it. Suppressing the feelings does not mean that they will go away, they just remain hidden in our subconscious but they still continue to influence our behaviour. For example, if you are rejected in a relationship you might not express how hurt you really are and you ‘pretend’ the rejection did not affect you. This is suppression of hurt feelings. This makes it very difficult to live in the present because we use a lot of energy trying to keep our hurt hidden. Suppression prevents us from moving through our experiences.


A second option is to repress our feelings. Repression is similar to suppression except that there is no awareness of the feeling being experienced. It is learnt behaviour and stifles the existence and experience of the feeling. In many ways it is the blocking of our body’s HONEST reaction to an event. For example, if you are angry but do not recognise it, the feeling becomes repressed and is stored subconsciously because a proper release has not been possible. People who continually rationalise their behaviours do a lot of repressing. Rationalising means explaining your experiences to yourself through the thinking process. An example might be the wife who leaves her husband and he may rationalise his feelings of rejection by saying that, “at least I don’t hear nagging any more,” or something to that effect.


Another option is to displace our feelings or scapegoat them. For example, if you are angry about being overlooked for a promotion at work, you may not express your disappointment directly to the person responsible. Again, you pretend it didn’t hurt you but instead of suppressing it you ‘dump’ or displace your anger or hurt onto others – your family, friends or colleagues.


Some of us may go to the other extreme where we allow feelings to control us. Frequent bouts of angry or even violent behaviour are examples of where our feelings control our behaviours. Such behaviour may fairly be described as venting. This occurs because we have a reservoir of feelings building up in our subconscious that are overflowing and need release. When a relatively small incident occurs, we use the experience to off load the pressure in our subconscious and the outcome is that we lose our temper and we consequently hurt others or ourselves. The feelings have started to seep out and we can’t stop them until the pressure subsides hence we experience that ‘out of control’ feeling. An example of venting is road rage.

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