Our emotions, thoughts, and behaviour are all connected, but you probably already know that.
What you may not know is that you can easily stop an emotion from getting to point where you feel overwhelmed or find yourself acting in ways that are self-sabotaging and in some cases, hurtful to others.
But first you have to understand what’s causing you to feel overwhelmed with emotions – anxious, worried, angry or fearful.
Maybe you can relate to this.
You send your ex a text and she doesn’t respond. You immediately have an unpleasant feeling that turns into all kinds of thoughts about the experience. “What did I do wrong?” “She’s Pulling away” “She must be mad at me for what happened yesterday” My God, I pushed her away” “Maybe she needs space?” Is there someone else?” “I am sure it is nothing, I am being needy, she is probably busy. But still…”
Now you are feeling panicked, guilty, anxious, worried, fearful. Maybe you should ask her what’s wrong. Maybe just leave it alone and see what happens, or maybe just ignore it and act like normal.
But what if she’s upset? What if she wants you to say you are sorry? She may never speak to you again. Does that mean you will never get back together? You need to apologize quick. But what do you say? What if she still doesn’t respond? Have you blown your chances? Does that mean you lost her forever?
Panic, guilty, anxiety and worry turn into anger and resentment. Why would she not even respond, doesn’t she know it’s rude? Maybe she’s stringing you along. Maybe you should confront her. But what if she pulls eve further away. Maybe you should just cut off all contact. But what if it’s nothing and she’s just busy…
Then you are back to panic, guilty, anxiety and worry. What did I do wrong?” …
Next thing you know you are acting on how you feel, all because you let your thoughts spin out of control.
How do you stop yourself from going into the dark tunnel or getting to point where you act on your feelings instead of what is actually happening?
- Breathing in and releasing your breath in meditation – This helps calm and ground you.
- Change your thoughts by thinking about positive things – This shifts the focus from doom thoughts to more pleasant ones.
- Welcome, honour and accept your thoughts and emotions – Africans call it, “Sitting With Myself” (I write more in detail about Sitting With Myself and the emotionally-stabilizing and resilience-building African concepts of Zamani and Sasa in my book It’s Just A Break-Up).
“Sitting With Myself” is not for everyone because it’s sometimes painful and takes time to thoroughly examine one’s thought process and accompanying emotions but when you’re done, you’ll feel emotionally stronger, calm, grounded, clear-minded and ready to deal with the situation that is causing to feel anxious and needy.
So if you are like me, the breathing thing doesn’t work for you and “positive thinking” feels like burying your head in the sand and pretending that what’s happening isn’t really happening, you might want to try paying attention to your thoughts and following them to the emotion and what it’s trying to tell you about how you are interpreting what’s happening.
Next time you notice or catch yourself going into the dark tunnel, interrupt the negative thought build-up by asking yourself:
- What is it that’s really making me feel this way’?
- Why am I reacting so strongly?
- Is this about what’s happening now or is it my fears about what might happen tomorrow? Next week? Next month??
- What’s the worst that could happen if I acted on how I feel?
- Is the worst that could happen really as scary as I am making it out to be?
- What happened the last time I felt this way and acted on it?
- How important will this be tomorrow? Next week? Next month?
- If I survive this feeling how will I remember this experience and how I reacted ?
You can tell me if it works or not (I won’t take it personally).
Just remember, the only things we can control in life are our thoughts, feelings and behaviours.
If you know or suspect your ex is an avoidant, you might want to read: Break-Up Anxiety – Understanding Your Avoidant Ex