Saturday, 25 May 2019

What to Do When You Are Upset

When You Are Upset

“Leaving Loneliness: A Workbook: Building Relationships with Yourself and Others”

by David S. Narang Ph.D

Options to Use When You Are Upset: Coping Thoughts

When you are upset, sometimes you need several options. Sometimes experiencing distress is good, signaling a problem that you need to take active steps to solve. Also, bearable amounts of distress can teach you to be patient with emotion. However, possibly you do not trust your impulses at the moment because they are too intense or destructive, or perhaps there is little you can do at the moment, or perhaps the emotion feels too intense to stay with. This is when the above meditation, and also the activity below, becomes useful. If there is a problem you cannot actively solve, or cannot solve at the moment, and the emotional distress feels too strong to simply weather the storm, these strategies can help.

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When You Are Upset

If the breathing meditation above was not enough, you can turn to coping by using the power of thoughts, when you are upset. Every one of us has to use coping thoughts at times. Altering your thoughts changes how you feel. Try to resist any urge to lie to yourself by pretending the situation is better than it is. Developing true thoughts that are also helpful and calming is more useful and more believable to you. For example, you might gently repeat the thought, “Let go, let go, let go of it for now.” You are not denying that this issue is important or that you feel badly about it. You are just giving yourself permission to release focus on it for now. “This won’t kill me” or “I will go on” are also useful statements for some people to use toward calming down.

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When You Are Upset

What would your own calming thoughts be when you are upset? Repeat the thoughts above to yourself several times, with gentle, firm determination. After you calm down a bit, it may also be useful to find a good distraction (e.g., television, engaging in your favorite hobby, phone call, time on internet, etc.). If so, just do it purposefully, knowing that you are distracting yourself for the moment in order to regain balance by calling upon your calmer emotionsDo you need to do something to cope with the agitation remaining in your body and mind? Go run around the block. If that does not work for you, what else can you do as a healthy physical release?

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When You Are Upset

One More Option to Use When You Are Upset: Art

Sometimes, rather than examining your mind (as in meditation) to learn more deeply and accurately about the source of your distress, or just trying to contain the distress (i.e., coping), you need to release, to purge the painful feeling inside when you are upset. This also helps clarify what that feeling is. Verbal release (as to a friend or partner) is great, but if this is not fully satisfying, or not currently available, then this activity may be for you. The next time when you are upset, try art to express and release this pain. It is important not to impose ‘form’ by telling yourself what you are supposed to be drawing, as you are trying to access your less linear, unstructured right brain, not the structured analytic left brain. If the analytic brain was the best hemisphere for this particular job, you would not need to use art in the first place, as you could verbalize the nature of the distress and either fix the problem or let the distress dissolve.

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When You Are Upset

Instead, just let your hand move and see what emerges on the paper, drawing with your left hand if possible to let your right hemisphere speak. Preparation: Get colored art supplies, preferably crayons, or if you are feeling adventurous, finger paints, along with appropriate paper (waterproof paper is commonly sold where finger paints are sold). Have these supplies available and ready for quick access when needed. Action: The next time you are deeply upset and don’t know what to do with all of that emotion, pull out the supplies. Get your paper and pick a color of crayon or finger paint to begin with, and get to it. Just see what comes out as you release yourself onto the paper, using your left hand if possible. Continue until you feel done.

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When You Are Upset

Afterward:

1) When You Are Upset. How do you feel now, after completing the artwork?

2) When You Are Upset. In order to integrate the right hemisphere’s mode of expression (e.g., the art that it produced) with the left hemisphere mode of action (e.g., verbal, analysis), take a moment to verbally describe what you put on the art paper. What emotions do you feel as you look at the art? Is it jagged or soft, etc.? Just write down a few descriptive, non-evaluative things that come immediately to your mind that you notice about your art.

3) When You Are Upset. Does anything surprise you about your artwork?

The reason for question two, helping you now verbalize what your emotions were and what your artwork reflects, is to help integrate your right and left-brain activities. As you gain more experience with having your left brain build skill in verbalizing and expressing the specific nature of your distress, this integration between “emotional” brain and “verbal” brain will likely benefit your relationships. For example, when you are upset, you will improve in communicating what is going on inside of you, instead of being mute about it out of difficulty stating your experience, or responding to not knowing the feeling by finding an arbitrary explanation for the feeling such as blaming another person for your unease.

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When You Are Upset

When You Are Upset. This increased brain integration, your left brain being able to describe the emotions that your right brain is feeling, allows your left brain to help you take accurate, specific action to help with the distress. Say for example that your right hemisphere is sad about your dog dying, but the left brain is unclear about the nature of your distress, so you simply handle the misunderstood distress by getting ice cream. This is vastly less satisfying than if the planful left brain becomes clear about the actual source of the right brain’s distress, and thus you decide to look at pictures of your dog or feel encouraged to cry about your dog. Increased integration between brain hemispheres allows you to more accurately scratch your emotional itches and thus gain satisfaction.

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When You Are Upset

 

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