As a therapist, I see how people turn to substance use or behavior addictions (like gambling, or eating, or the Internet) in an attempt to manage painful feelings they can’t control. You probably know what I mean. Sometimes our feelings are more intense and active than we can bear. How can we manage them in a productive way? An alternative to letting rage, hurt, and shame drive our actions is to give our feelings names to reduce their power and show how they can help.
Why Name Feelings
In the 2015 Disney Pixar movie Inside Out feelings of anger, sadness, joy, fear and disgust are put in the form of animals and played out in the mind of a young girl as she experiences daily life.
The Metaphor of Feelings As Animals Helps Tame Them
This is a good technique for anyone. Julie, a patient of mine, learned to manage her own internal demons this way. She imagined her out-of-control emotions as animals trying to help her. Anxiety was a squirrel that skittered about, collecting acorns to store up for a potentially harsh winter. Anger was a grizzly bear that felt a need to protect people in her life from verbal or physical abuse. Fear was a timid rabbit, cowering in a corner, waiting to be attacked. Once Julie could clearly see the menagerie of feelings in her head as animals with tasks to accomplish, she could appreciate them and let the overwhelming pain recede into the shadows at least temporarily.
It’s A Good Tool To Stay Cool
I also use these tools to keep my own addictions of co-dependence and workaholism at bay, I envision co0dependence as a puppy, leaping about and yipping for attention. Her loyalty and persistence is how she earns love. She can also morph into a teeth baring, snarling guard dog keeping hypervigilant watch to guard her territory. The workaholism is a beast of burden horse that longs to run free without shackles or burdens on her back. She enjoys munching on sweet green grass in unbounded fields. In this way they become my friends I can appreciate while sorting out how to handle them.
What Are Your Powerful Emotions
Consider your own emotional landscape as it applies to addictions or people who challenge you. What are the predominating feeling states you experience? Guilt and shame, sorrow and regret are common ones. Perhaps the Winne the Pooh character, Eeyore, would personify sorrow, while a slug could embody guilt and shame as it leaves a slimy trail behind it.
Have A Dialogue To Make Your Jungle Safe
You may also want to give voice to these representatives of your inner workings. Have a dialogue with them, asking them what they want you to know. You can write the answers down, or record them, using their messages as a means to maintain emotional equilibrium.
Reach Out Recovery Exclusive By Edie Weinstein