When walking at the side of our normally busy road there are still occasionally cars who will pass me very fast and too close. I step onto the verge but nonetheless my body still reacts to the proximity of danger. I can’t stop this immediate response, it is involuntary.
What I can stop though is the habit of spinning off into a reaction, getting angry and often gesticulating or yelling. In many ways our usual responses to emotional situations are distractions. They mask the underlying feelings and allow us to run away from them.
Just being with strong feelings is hard. Harder than reacting. Noticing where in our body we feel them, noticing our hearts racing faster, feeling the rush of adrenalin. Turning to face our emotions allows them to exist, acknowledges them, recognises them, and in doing so allows them to dissipate naturally, to run out of steam, to enable us to return to calm rather than getting caught up in the drama of reaction.
It takes courage to do this, to truly experience our feelings. It is easier to fly off the handle, to vent, to indulge. But in the long run letting them flow through us is better for us – and for those around us.