July 6, 2017
In this article I want to share with you this deceptively simple but incredibly powerful secret that is the gateway to gaining mastery over overwhelming emotion, especially when you’re in a situation of high work stress. Firstly, let’s take a moment to define emotion.
Emotion = energy in motion. Emotion is an energy you produce that extends beyond the bounds of your physical body and has the capacity to influence others’ states of mind in either positive or negative ways.
During states of high work stress, emotions are unbalanced and chaotic, whereas during states of contentment, emotions are coherent and balanced.
Emotion has its own logic, which is fundamentally different from intellectual logic. In our culture, we often describe intense emotion as “irrational,” thus denying emotion’s true underlying coherence. Emotional logic, being the greater of the two, can encompass intellectual logic, whereas intellectual logic cannot encompass emotional logic, thus:
Our downfall is when we attempt to understand our emotions using our intellect, which is a common mistake. We berate ourselves for having emotions we believe we “shouldn’t” have – emotions that prevent us from “being in control.”
Yet the reality is, emotions motivate ALL behaviour. Emotions convey important information we need to hear – in fact:
Emotion is the language of your soul
When we learn to listen to this source of wisdom, without judging, we discover important information about who we really are at our core.
Hence, THIS is the emotional mastery secret your psychiatrist doesn’t want you to know:
When you allow yourself to be curious, without judging your experience, when you let go into it, ALL emotion arises and pass away (even if it feels like it’s infinite)
Before explaining why that is, let’s take an example – I’ll use my own story of workplace bullying to illustrate what I mean.
In the first job I got straight out of uni, I was bullied by a senior clinician, who had dogged me over many years in another setting I’d worked in.
This woman was mean, spiteful and cruel to me and I could never quite figure out what her problem was. She gossiped about me behind my back, tried to get me fired by enlisting the collusion of the higher-ups, rolled her eyes when I dared to speak in meetings and once even slammed a door in my face.
My reaction was one of fury: “How dare she try that on ME!” Then I reacted with intense anxiety, driving into work each day, not knowing when the next attack would be. At the same time, I was “trying” to be professional, to do my job, see things “rationally” and “not let it get to me.” Sound familiar?
Then one day, I cracked. I was leaving the prison, walking towards my car in the car park. Suddenly, my body was wrecked with sobbing so powerful, all I could do was stop and surrender to it as I doubled over in emotional pain. As I let go and watched myself sob, I noticed how emotion convulsed my whole body. Deep, deep grief. In that moment, I was both experiencing overwhelming emotion and observing it at the same time.
By being curious about this tsunami of grief that came out of nowhere, I let go of my attachment that “life should be a certain way” and that I “shouldn’t be feeling like this.” There was a small space between who I really was and my experience in the present moment – and that small space allowed me to observe and detach:
I am NOT my experience
The insight that arose in the moments that followed blew me away. Suddenly, I found myself as a small child again, bearing the brunt of one of my mother’s cruel, narcissistic rages. Then it became clear – THAT’S why I was reacting so strongly against this woman – because at some deep, visceral level – she reminded me of my mother!
The strange thing about life is that when you really get the learning you need from a situation, it allows you to move on, never to repeat the same experience. Shortly after this event, I was fired from my job in a “last in, first out” basis as a new government came into power and changed the structures of the organisation. Although I was pretty cut up about it at the time, in hindsight I can feel incredibly grateful that I actually dodged a bullet.
(BTW, you can find out more about my story by downloading my free, 3-part video series, “Walk Away From Work Stress” here.)
Another profound learning to be had from developing curiosity (rather than judgment) about our emotions is that the stressful situation in the present triggers old beliefs, painful memories and wounds from our childhood. Without curiosity driving emotional growth, we stay stuck, unable to connect to the powerful insights we need to evolve.
Was there a bully in your past (perhaps a parent) who hurt you so badly you weren’t able to deal with it then? Are you carrying that wound into your present experience? Do beliefs about who you are – e.g., “I’m worthless, unloveable, incompetent, etc..” Keep you tolerating unbearable situations in your daily life?
Alternatively, do you have a strong belief (as many people do) in the “Just World Hypothesis” which says: “good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people?” Do you believe you’re having this difficult time because you’re “bad, wrong or defective” in some way?
If so, there’s a subconscious part of you stuck in the past and this stressful situation at work is a helpful nudge advising you that you need to update your psychic records.
If you’re keen to grow your way out of your current work stress situation and need more support in doing so, a great place to start is to download my free e-book, “The Silence of Mindfulness: A Simple Guide To Inner Peace And Emotional Wellbeing.”
In it, I give you step-by-step instructions on the attitudes you need to develop so that you can deploy this secret weapon of curiosity to help you release negative emotion faster, more effectively and more safely.
When you click on this link, you’ll also get access to my email coaching series that gives you the extra support and resources to help you implement this new learning.
Alternatively, if you want to receive support straight into your Facebook Messenger inbox, you can click here.
Dr Sophie Henshaw is a Work Stress Strategist, Author and Doctor of Psychology who also works as a clinical psychologist in private practice in Western Australia. She’s helps mid-career professionals working in toxic workplaces with bully bosses walk away from work stress without losing their career, reputation, income or sanity in her online program, "Walk Away From Work Stress." Dr Sophie is the author of “Stressed, Depressed And Dreading Mondays” and has contributed a chapter in Anton Hout's book: “What Every Target Of Workplace Bullying Needs To Know.” She also writes for her blog at: www.freespiritedme.com and has made media appearances on Channel 10, 6PR, Huffpost Live, WA Today, Ninemsn Health and is a contributor to Huffington post, Women’s Agenda and PsychCentral online magazines. In 2017 she presented at the “No More Harm” conference and in 2016 was a keynote speaker at the "No2Bullying conference," as well as the inaugural HPARA conference.