Halloween isn’t the only time of year some of us walk around in disguise. Some of us “trick or treat” on a daily basis; we “trick” ourselves into believing we can manipulate our emotions and “treat” those same emotions as if they aren’t really there. We walk around with masks of joy and happiness painted on our tired faces, hoping no one else takes notice of what is happening deep inside. And often they don’t. But the problem with emotional masks is that the slightest incident can bring the masquerade to a halt, unveiling whatever we’re trying to hide underneath. These emotional masks can even send us to breaking point.
A lot of people misinterpret what it means to be in “control” of your emotions. We often hear the word “control” and we relate it to the concept of having “power over.” This misconception may lead us to believe that if we are still feeling strongly about a certain emotion, than we are not assuming “power” over those emotions, and therefore we are not in control. But being in “control” of your emotions is less about manipulating your feelings than it is about increasing your emotional awareness. You have to allow yourself to feel negative feelings as they arise. This is the only way you’ll be able to identify the source of those feelings and further understand how to cope with those emotions.
Emotional awareness is the ability to recognize your emotional responses and manage them in a healthy way. People often attempt to cope with their feelings by avoiding them entirely and pretending everything is okay. They distract themselves with external stimuli or begin to engage in risky emotional and physical behaviors. Others resort to sticking with the emotional mask they find most comfortable.
For example, someone feeling inadequate, fearful, or insecure may result to bullying and constantly appear to be angry or mean. They are attempting to use this mask of anger as a disguise for what they are really feeling. Because they have not learned to properly cope with their emotions, they pick on others and shut people out as a part of their coping mechanism.
According to Jeanne Segal, Ph.D, Melinda Smith, M.A.; and Lawrence Robinson (authors of the article “Emotion Communicates: The Powerful Role Emotions Play in All Relationships”):
Raising your emotional awareness and emotional intelligence begins with the question: “What kinds of sensory input instantly make me feel relaxed, safe, calm, and focused?” Once you have a safety net in place and know how to make yourself feel good quikly and dependably, you can begin to explore the emotions that seem disagreeable or frightening.
There are several consequences in avoiding our emotions and feelings, including emotional exhaustion and shutting down your ability to feel positive emotions such as happiness and love. In order to avoid numbing ourselves entirely and the risk of damaging our relationships, we must learn to cope with our feelings in a positive and healthy way. To learn more about emotional awareness, visit Helpguide.org and read the full article quoted above, titled “Emotion Communicates: The Powerful Role Emotions Play in All Relationships.” Helpguide.org is a trusted, non-profit emotional wellness site directed by a group of social workers and psychologists. Check it out!