Emotions have gotten a bad rap in our culture. They’re often seen as signs of weakness or the things that get in the way of our ability to function and cope. But the truth is, the way you process feelings and respond to others speaks volumes about who you are.
Dealing with emotions effectively isn’t about suffering them away for feeling them less. It’s about establishing a balance, shoring up those areas where we’re most vulnerable, and making the most of our natural strengths. The key lies in understanding your natural style of relating.
What’s the default setting of your personality, the one you revert to especially under duress? Do you lead with your intellect? Share your feelings freely? Shut down?
The following is an outline of Dr. Orloff’s emotional profiles. See what resonates with you and what doesn’t. No type is better than another when it’s in balance. The goal here isn’t to stereotype your responses, but to identify your own strengths and weaknesses – and ultimately – be your best self.
Bright, articulate analysts – intellectuals often take refuge in their heads, filtering the world through rational thought. Impeccable analyzers with a killer sense of logic, they often risk cutting themselves off from other emotions, dismissing them as too “soft” or illogical. Known for keeping their head cool in heated situations and excelling at debate, intellectuals struggle with emotions and may be slow to engage in anything playful or lighthearted.
Are you an intellectual?
Do you believe you can think your way to any solution? When presented with a problem, do you immediately start analyzing the pros and cons rather than notice how it makes you feel? Do you prefer planning to spontaneity? If so, try this:
Breathe – If you’re mentally gridlocked, simply inhale and exhale deeply and slowly, in through your nose, out through your mouth.
Exercise – Whether you’re roller-bladding, walking, or poised in a yogic Sun Salutation, exercise imparts an in-the-now body awareness that give the intellect a much needed rest.
Practice empathy – Ask yourself, “How can I respond from my heart, not just my head?”
World-class nurturers – empaths are highly sensitive, finely tuned instruments when it comes to emotions. Because they interpret the world intuitively, they tend to feel everything (sometimes to an extreme) and can therefore fall prey to stressful emotions, anxiety, panic attacks, and depression – especially if they don’t set and maintain firm boundaries. The right mix of intellect, feeling, and groundedness can help them get centered.
Are you an empath?
Have you ever been called “too emotional” or overly sensitive? If a friend is distraught, do you start feeling that way too? Are your feelings easily hurt? If so, try this:
Enlist your intellect – When you’re emotionally wrung out, think things through to counter anxiety. Repeat this mantra: “It’s not my job to take on the emotions of others. I can be loving without doing so.” This forms the intellectual foundation for coping.
Decompress – Take calming mini-breaks throughout the day. Head outside for some fresh air, go for a walk, or find a private place to close your eyes and meditate. Focus on exhaling pent-up negative emotions, such as loneliness and worry, feeling them dissipate with each breath.
Safeguard your sensitivities – Make a list of your top five most emotionally rattling situations, then formulate a plan for handling them so you don’t get caught in the panic. For instance, if your comfort level for socializing is three hours, always take your own car so you can leave an even early.
Consistent, dependable, and stable – rocks offer security and rarely lose their cool. You can sob, complain, or rant and they don’t pull away or judge. But unlike empaths, there’s a solid border between themselves and the world. Because they tend to internalize their own stressful emotions, they need nudging to bring them out. Don’t expect them to exhibit or reciprocate emotions or handle relationship conflicts head on. Rocks can find balance engaging in freer, more spontaneous interactions.
Are you a rock?
Is it easier for you to listen than it is to share your feelings? Do you often feel like you’re the most dependable person in the room? Are you generally satisfied with the status quo in your relationships (though others try to draw you out emotionally)? If so, try this:
Stir things up – Decide to initiate emotional exchanges rather than only respond to them. Remember that showing emotion is as much a form of generosity as being dependable is. With loved ones, expressing your feelings generates sparks, which generates passion – yours and theirs.
Express one feeling a day – In a daily journal, record an emotion you’re experiencing. Don’t mince words. Maybe you’re pissed off. Content. In love. What it is, bravo! Now tell someone. If you don’t suppress your emotions, your stress lessens, and there’s more of you to connect with.
Spontaneous, direct, and trustworthy – gushers are virtuosos of their emotions and need to share them. Their compulsive emotional purging, however, can inhibit their own self-sufficiency and sometimes even drives others away. But they’re also able to quickly metabolize negativity and move on.
Are you a gusher?
Do you get anxious if you keep your feelings in? When a problem arises, is your first impulse to pick up the phone? Do you have difficulty sensing other people’s emotional boundaries? If so, try this:
Before soliciting support, check in – Ask yourself how a certain situation makes you feel. Mad? Seething? Experience those emotions before acting out or involving someone else.
Use positive self talk – Tell yourself, “I did my best. I even deserve kudos for graciousness.” Affirm everything you did right; try to forgive when you might have fallen short.
Tune in to your intuition – Spend a few moments meditating to see what impressions or “ahas” come to you. Don’t cheat yourself out of the chance to build your emotional muscles.