🧠 #27: Handling emotion appropriately

🧠 #27: Handling emotion appropriately

This week’s update includes being asked for advice, mindfully processing emotions, and a new way to blog.

These weekly updates share life with OCD as part of my Mental Work Health project to reduce stigma around mental health, especially at work.

I hope this finds you well. Recently, I have been feeling overwhelmed, and have found that nearly everyone else is as well. We need to find times and ways to relax and recharge.

Something hard

Over the past few weeks, I have had a few 1:1 meetings with people whom I highly respect that have had a surprising twist. These meetings are a delightful mix of personal and professional conversations as we are whole people with each other, and also get work done. During the conversation, these individuals have opened themselves up with extreme vulnerability, and have asked me for advice. The advice they have sought has been of a deep personal nature relating to an area of their life that matters a great deal to them.

These are sobering moments for me. The first thought that comes to me is that I am not enough to answer them. Not smart enough. Not experienced enough. Not knowledgeable enough. Not important enough. Not enough. This is a hard thought to sit with. I have to fight to not allow it to cripple me.

My next thought is a mix of humility, awe, and surprise. I have often become a little emotional as I considered the amount of trust the person was demonstrating in me. It is both an empowering and a humbling experience to feel that trust from someone whom you look up to and respect.

I have found that the advice I am most comfortable giving is not what the other person should do, but what I have done or seen done. One thing I know is that I don’t have all the answers. But I do have opinions, and I have my own experiences. I can share those, and if there is something in there that can be helpful, that is about as much as I can hope for.

Something good

In my update last week, I shared about a weekend of panic attacks. In my therapy session last week, we discussed those, and realized that one of the events that set it off was some unprocessed emotion. I received a difficult email at work on the Friday before the weekend, and carried that emotion home with me, and never really sat with it or processed it in a healthy way.

In contrast, over this past week, there were a couple instances where I took responsibility for my emotions and handled them appropriately. There was a day that I was getting in my car to drive home from work and realized that the stress of the day was weighing heavily on me. I didn’t want to take that home and dump it on my family. I called my wife to check in on how she was doing, and then went back in my office and just wrote for a bit to get out my negative feelings. Then I was able to go home and engage with the family.

On another day, my wife and I had a budget meeting on a date, and then went grocery shopping together. As we were walking through the store, all of a sudden, I hit a proverbial wall. I started shuffling slowly forward, barely able to lift my eyes from the floor. After moving like that for a few minutes through the store, I told my wife that I needed to head out to the van and let her finish alone. Again, I just wrote out my feelings, and realized I was carrying a lot of shame around the budget and our financial situation. My writing didn’t change anything about the situation, but it did change me, and that made all the difference.

Something else

HEY World

A product announcement caught my attention this past week. Basecamp released a feature called HEY World. I have been moving over my email to use HEY as I agree with their philosophy on privacy, as well as their focus on user experience and changing our relationship with email. HEY World allows anyone who is a paying customer of the email service to send an email to create a blog post.

This has caused me to stop and think.

For years, I have been trying to blog, and have spent countless hours setting up different versions of my site or blog. My current blog is hosted on Micro.blog, which is also a service whose mission and philosophy I strongly support. One of the reasons I moved to Micro.blog was to simplify and remove my ability to tinker. Just having the ability had proved to be a difficult temptation to resist, and I would often succumb and try to get things “just right” for hours.

The premise of HEY World is that you just write. It is not a platform or a social network. There are no comments, no likes, no ads, no featured content. They do make it simple for anyone to subscribe to a mailing list to receive your new posts if desired, and anyone can email you a reply to your post if they want to. It removes all of the management and allows you to focus on a single thing—writing.

I find myself torn. My first post on HEY World is about my complicated feelings: New things. I don’t know if I want to move all of my writing over there to make things simpler. I don’t know if my instinct to make changes is just because there is something new and exciting. In many ways, my OCD is looking for the “right” thing, and craving certainty.

The challenge I am giving myself is to sit in the uncertainty. I can continue to inform myself, and I can still think about it, but I am not going to make a decision yet. I need to be able to handle the emotions I am feeling first, and then I can move forward.

This approach is basically an application of the DBT skill wise mind. The simple version of that skill is that you need to engage both your emotional and intellectual sides of your brain. When you start to lean to an extreme in either direction, find a way to bring yourself back to more of a balance. Remembering and practicing this skill is a great way for me to find peace, and also make better decisions.

Wrap up

Mindfully processing emotions is one of the most important things we can do. So much of the destructive behavior we see or experience is an effort to escape feeling our emotions. This writing is one of those ways for me, and I hope that you can find some that work for you.

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