Every emotion carries a message. Each of our feelings has meaning that can lead to positive action. However, do you ever get so caught up in a negative feeling that it just shuts you down? In this post, we’ll talk about an effective strategy to downshift intense emotions when that happens.
Because we aren’t generally taught to recognize the meaning in our emotions and to handle them in healthy ways, we often miss, ignore, or avoid their messages. When we do that, emotional energy builds into overblown high drama to get our attention. It’s as if our emotions say, “O.K. you didn’t get the message in my civil indoor voice, so I’m going to yell it at you.” You then feel extreme anger, overwhelming sadness, or anxiety that is through the roof.
When emotion has amped up to that point, it can be helpful to bring it down a notch to a manageable level. It can be helpful to acknowledge that your emotion is trying to tell you something. You can likely downshift intense emotions by acknowledging and becoming attentive to them.
A few things that can help you do that are:
1. Take a couple slow deep breaths. This activates your relaxation response and helps dissipate some of the pressure of intense feelings.
2. Feel the sensation of the emotion in your body. Notice where your emotion is located in your body and the quality of the sensation in that location. Imagine and feel that you are breathing in and out of that area.
3. Adopt the perspective of a neutral accepting observer who is seeking to understand the message contained in your emotion.
When you do these three things, you may find it takes the over-the-top intense edge off the feeling. Extreme anger might downshift to a firm “no,” intense sadness might become “letting go,” and high anxiety might become a “spur to action.” Once your feeling has downshifted in intensity, it is easier to listen to and respond to appropriately. You can take action to address the current situation. You can set boundaries, release what no longer serves you, and prepare for uncertain situations.
Rather than fearing the intensity, see if you can move toward your intense feelings with an accepting, observant, trusting attitude and notice how they shift and teach you what you need to do right now.