July 11th, 2012
Have you been surfing lately? Summer’s here and the beach isn’t too far away. I’ve never surfed in the ocean myself…but there is another kind of surfing that I practice. There’s another wave to ride…and it wont get you wet. I’m talking about the wave of emotion.
When most of us experience a difficult, painful emotion, we want it to go away. We may run from it, distract ourselves, have a drink, or watch TV. Alternately, we may anlayze it, trying to understand why we feel that way – attempting to eliminate the feeling, figure it out, or control it. All of these efforts, while intending to decrease the emotion, can actually increase the amount of emotional pain we experience.
There is research that suggests that simply noticing and observing our anger, sadness, shame or fear can actually decrease the amount of pain we experience. The idea is that you feel the emotion, paying attention to how it feels in your body. Simply allow it to be present without justifying or explaining it. You can then FEEL it and RIDE it out.
I’ve certainly experienced this myself. I remember one time while doing dishes, I was overcome with sadness. A lot was going on in my life then. I took a moment and allowed the emotion to be present. I then had a big, emotional cry. A sitting-on-the-kitchen-floor cry that is. And after awhile, I felt a lot better. Instead of pushing it down – and risking being cranky with anyone who came into my path – I felt the emotion, rode the wave (which was quite large), and came out for the better when it hit the shoreline.
You’re probably thinking, “Why would I want to do that?” Once again, by learning to experience our emotions, we can actually limit the amount of pain we experience. This kind of surfing might not be as much fun as riding the waves at the beach, but it also has some true benefits. It might be worth your time to practice riding the wave of emotion.
If you’re looking for a therapist or counselor in Dupont Circle, Washington, DC feel free to contact Mike Giordano, LICSW at 202-460-6384 or Mike.Giordano.MSW@gmail.com.