No Strings on Me
The phrase 'no strings on me’ many of us remember from Pinocchio and more recently, if you are a nerd like me, Avengers: Age of Ultron. What does it mean? For me it means control. Many things can control and influence our lives, but your emotions can have the greatest influence over you. They are piano-wired strings that jig and jag us around like puppets. These are strings that cannot be cut.
Our emotions are part of us. The joy of watching our children grow, and the sadness of watching them leave the nest. Emotions are part of our built in history. We wouldn’t want to be emotionless androids moving from one task to the next. Our emotions can, however, be dangerous. ‘Gepetto’ gone awry.... Dragging us across the puppet stage at inopportune times.
“I don't want to be at the mercy of my emotions. I want to use them, enjoy them, and dominate them.”-Oscar Wilde, Picture of Dorian Gray
There are entire libraries of books dealing with emotions. No wrong or right answers here, but it is important to find what works for you. I am not talking about suppressing them. Suppression is part of how our emotions control us. It is like trying to plug a crack in Hoover Dam with your finger; ineffective and dangerous.
Stress is not always a bad thing. It can power us through difficult situations and actually increase our performance. Sadness is also useful and necessary. It helps us work through the grieving process when we have lost a loved one. When we become overwhelmed in our day to day lives it is sometimes difficult to wrangle these emotions into usefulness. Deadlines at work, family, and or financial problems all take their toll.
Recognizing our emotions
Before we can gain any kind of control over the puppet master we must recognize our emotions. Validation is an important step to understanding what triggers an emotional state. When you are becoming angry or stressed, simply recognize it. Take a moment to say to yourself: “I am feeling this right now.” Awareness, like knowledge, is power. This simple step will slowly relieve the pressure valve of your emotions.
It is not always convenient to just leave an emotional situation but, sometimes, it is necessary. A stressful family gathering (Thanksgiving Dinner), for example. We have all been there and we can feel the stress and emotion as soon as we walk in the door. If you start to feel these emotions coming on, recognize them and step out of it. Even if you can only get away for a few moments… Do it! Take a walk around the block, walk your dog, or go into your garden for a few moments. Self-removal doesn’t change the stressful situation necessarily, but it gives us a moment to breathe and recognize we are becoming emotional. This gives us a few moments to evaluate what is making us upset.
Taking control of your emotions is impossible without understanding the root of the problem. Again, knowledge is power. Being aware of our surroundings is important and knowing that a particular situation or family member sets us off, helps us to control it. This is part of growing as a human being and creates inner understanding.
Even in our closest relationships with our spouse or significant other, losing control of our emotions can create serious problems. Emotions are like the silly putty we played with as children. You stick it to the newspaper and the print transfers to the putty. Your emotions transfer. You may not do it intentionally, but when you are angry, sad or stressed your partner senses it. We have all blown up, unreasonably, at someone we love. Recognizing we have done it and immediately apologizing is important. Get this out of the way. Do not let it fester.
When we lose our temper because of stress and lash out at loved ones, it starts building walls. It is critical to communicate with our loved ones. If we do not communicate and suppress our emotions, we risk ultimately creating a wall that is too high to get over.
How do we put the 1,000-piece puzzle of our emotions back together? We really never do in a single lifetime. This is part of what makes us unique, and I’m grateful for it. We can, however, start a dialogue with them. The skeleton key to this is starting to find ways of relieving our pent up stress and anxiety.
Meditation and exercise are just a couple of outlets we can use to start the conversation with ‘Gepetto’. We can’t all run 5 miles before or after work, but we can take a short walk or even just spend a few moments without the television, stretching on the living room floor. The key here is to take a few moments to relax and contemplate the day. Keeping up a routine is important. You will be amazed at how quickly you will start to feel better.
Integrating the strings
Understanding that we are emotional beings and having a dialogue with them is important to us and our loved ones. We forget to take a few moments aside from the hectic pace of our careers and this can be detrimental and even dangerous to our emotional well-being.
Becoming at one with your emotions is also important when you are looking to start a new relationship. If you are emotionally handicapped and tangled up in the strings, it is hard enough to take care of yourself, never mind trying to bring someone else into your life.
Write it down
One of the things that I find helpful in life, no matter what I may be trying to do, is writing in a journal. You do not have to be an author to do it. I find writing things down to be a helpful release of stressful emotions. Make it part of your process. If you have a particularly stressful day, take a few minutes to write down what happened and what you think may have triggered it. Also, write down possible solutions to the problem.
The important thing is to find a routine that works for you and recognize when you're tangled up in the strings of emotion.