Posts Tagged ‘emotions’

Do Your Emotions Help or Hurt You as You Try to Live Your Best Possible Life?

Sunday, February 7th, 2010

I’ve known author and diabetes educator David Spero for several years, but I just recently discovered his diabetes self-management blog. I found his posts to be well written, and very helpful and informative – not just for people with diabetes, but for anyone with a chronic illness. And some of the posts were provocative.

In a post he titled “Do Your Emotions Help or Hurt You?,” David wrote about getting together with Mark, a friend of his who had AIDS and had nearly died from it but had regained his health and was doing well. David quoted something Mark said in their conversation, which was, “I learned not to pay attention to my emotions. I learned that emotions aren’t real. They’re just waves in your mind. They can get in the way of doing what you need to do. So if feelings can help me get from one place to another, I use them. If they’re in the way, I just let them go.”

David then described the ensuing discussion, in which he said that he trusted emotions more than thoughts and that we should put them to positive use, while Mark said that that if he kept going back to an emotion, like anger, that he was feeling, he would stay stuck.

David went on to say that he was beginning to think that Mark was right, that just as we are taught to notice thoughts and let them go while meditating, that we should just notice our emotions, try to understand what they are trying to tell us, and then let them go.

When I was growing up, there were far too many times when the painful and difficult emotions I felt were ignored, or if they weren’t ignored then I was often criticized for having them. That may beĀ  at least part of the reason why I disagree with what Mark said, and why I don’t think David should have changed his view.

But Mark was right in realizing that it isn’t healthy to keep going back to an emotion. So what do we do? What I have discovered is that we need to acknowledge our difficult and painful emotions, and then let the part of ourselves that is having those emotions know that we have lots of empathy for it.

When we do that, that part of us knows it isn’t being dismissed or ignored. It feels reassured, and it lets go of the emotion without being forced to.

Having a chronic illness virtually always means experiencing difficult and painful emotions. I think they can be a big help in living your best possible life if you learn from them and have lots of empathy and compassion for yourself when you have them. What do you think?

How You Are Isn’t As Important As How You Feel

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

If you are reading my blog, chances are you have a chronic illness. And if I asked you how you are, you would likely tell me that you’re sick, that you’re having a flare, that you’re in pain, or something like that. Because I’m a life coach for people with chronic illnesses, I have asked many people that question and have gotten many answers similar to the ones I just mentioned.

But when I ask people with chronic illnesses how they feel, I get answers that aren’t at all the same or similar. Some people say they feel bad, depressed, upset, or sad, while others say that they feel good, positive, grateful, optimistic, and things like that. I find myself wondering why some people with chronic illnesses feel good while others don’t, and wondering even more about what those who feel those negative emotions can do to feel more of the positive ones.

Before I continue, I want to say that I don’t consider it to be a sign of weakness for a person to feel bad or sad when he or she has a chronic illness. Since having a chronic illness very often means 1) living with pain and fatigue, 2) not being able to things that we enjoy and used to be able to do, and 3) not being able to explain to others what living with our illness is like so they understand it, it’s completely understandable that a person with a chronic illness would feel depressed, upset, etc.

But even though feeling negative emotions is understandable, I have no doubt that most of us who live with a chronic illness would choose to FEEL better if we could. And the truth is that we can. There are many things we can do – so many that I could write a book. Actually, I am writing a book, and I’ll let you know when it’s available so you can get it if you want to.

In the meantime, here are a couple of ways you can FEEL better even though you have a chronic illness and aren’t well:

The first is to recognize that feelings, including negative ones, are transitory. They come and they can go, but only if we let them. One thing you can do is to imagine that you’re a house, and that feelings come in with the wind through an open window. If the window on the other side of the house is closed, the feelings will stay, but if you visualize yourself opening that other window, the feelings will pass through and leave.

The second way is not for everyone, but many of you will find it very helpful. That is to schedule a time each day for negative feelings – for example, from 2:00 until 2:15 every afternoon. If you notice yourself having negative feelings before that time, just set them aside until then. And any negative feelings after 2:15 are to be set aside until the following afternoon.

While these ideas won’t directly improve your health, they can be a great help in lifting your feelings. I will share more ideas in a later post. If you would like some suggestions for your own challenges, you can sign up for one of the limited number of no cost introductory “How to Have a Better Life” coaching sessions I offer.

I’ll close by saying Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, and Happy Holidays everyone!