A Series on Emotional Intelligence and Administration
Processing Emotions and Accepting your Past
Welcome to the last addition to the series handling emotions effectively. Last week I talked about support systems and asking for help. I presented my understanding of the situations that could potentially need a call for help and what that looks like. Between the first and second parts of the series, I explained the way to segregate emotions and then deal with them individually as necessary.
The actionable steps that were introduced in part 1 are a very reliable tool that helps us to process our emotional state and take things forward. In this section, I want to touch on what it really means to go forward and make peace with stressful emotions.
So, what does it really mean to move forward? Far too many people trust that moving forward suggests forgetting what happened in the past, ignoring it and looking towards a brighter future. This in itself has a lot of loopholes and can lead to some severe unwelcome consequences. The assumption that forgetting something of the past and moving on has a rather faulty footing. It bases itself on the idea that what happened in the past is no longer relevant and if movements like the Black Lives Matter and Feminism have something to inform us, it should at least be that our history needs to be brought into the modern world or we will be stuck in our abhorrent ways.
It requires us to understand the past to forge a path forward that is better. No one can guarantee perfect and no one requires perfect (other than my last boss). You have to confidently be able to tell yourself that you aren’t completely over that time in your life. Many folks don’t realize this and get stuck to a time long gone. When you try to ignore change, the change ignores you and moves forwards – and then you look around to see that everything you knew is now moot.
Let’s try to dig into this a little further. There is an imaginary person named Shelly. They graduated college 7 years earlier and they had a lot of fun in the 4 years they went to school. Because Shelly went to a college in their hometown, they still like to go to the same bars that they did during college, meet new folks and still believe that nearly nothing has changed since they’ve been in college.
One day Shelly is out meeting their best friend for brunch, let’s name them Jordan. Jordan informs Shelly that they’re getting married. Although Shelly is really happy for Jordan, they feel that it is too soon. Still stuck in their college days, Shelly does not realize that their friends have newer priorities in life and suddenly Shelly feels left out.
In this, rather simple, for example, we see that Shelly is happy with how things have been for a long time without changing anything in their life. That said, the reason Shelly felt left out is that they didn’t realize that the lives of people around them were changing. There is also a secondary machination at work here. The other reason that Shelly feels left out is because they are surrounded by people much younger, they’re meeting college students who are now from a different generation altogether. They talk about the new restaurant on campus while Shelly is worrying about things like rent, bills, and how they’re gonna give Jordan the best pre-wedding party ever.
Accepting your Past
People find themselves in this kind of situation when their priorities start to evolve and they haven’t changed along with these priorities. When they get too attached to something that was life-changing, in a good or a bad way – they do not accept that that moment is gone. This is the first barrier they find before moving forward. From living like a college student well after college is over, to looking for the same highlights of a past relationship in a new one. Constantly comparing the happy times to present instead of living in the moment. All these are examples of how one tries to deny the change in their life.
This kind of attachment soon turns into toxicity and becomes a weight that does not allow you to grow and truly enjoy the new firsts of this – later stage of life. To take a step away from this attachment requires the courage to first, say that that was the past. Now, depending on the situation, you have to also acknowledge that this past was a life-changing event.
If that time was really joyful – you need to be able to definitively say that it was good, but now it’s done, and I need to live in the present and take it for what it is, one day at a time. In contrast, if the time was something that hurt you, you also need to be able to definitively say that this painful history is a part of me and although I can’t change it, I can try to be happier instead.
This form of acknowledgment can help break the first barrier because this is how you become conscious of what your present needs are as an older human living in a different time. When I say that you need to accept your past, you need to acknowledge it and mentally decide to accept it as a part of you and take it forward in a more mature way. What are humans if not a conglomerate of diverse memories?
Processing the Past, Present, and Future
While I have talked about segregating emotions and to process them, I do not think it is a good idea to segregate the different times in your life to process them. In fact, the past, present, and future all have their overlapping moments that play a hand in forming who you are as a person. So to say that you need to separate these three and deal with them individually would be asking someone to make three batches of stew with a different veggie in each before mixing it all together.
Although there is no ‘set in stone’ method that helps someone make decisions that improve the outcome of the future, I do have 2 ways that make it easy to approach a problem like such.
Method 1: The Lesson Plan
I call it the lesson plan because when making decisions that can affect things like my future, I look at the past and present for lessons learned. I ask myself what went wrong or right and why did it happen. What was happening, what was I thinking, and then create lessons around it. Even for simple things like approaching someone in a work environment, I ask myself – was I too harsh last time with my criticism, did I offer anything of value, was something else having an effect on my mood? These questions help me in deriving the key pointers in similar situations that help me take at least well-informed decisions.
That’s actually the best anyone can do, make well-informed decisions. Now, this kind of approach works best for objective situations where things are easily broken down. You’ll find yourself in situations like this in workplaces, making financial decisions, or career choices. I would not recommend this to anyone in situations that are morally ambiguous. For that look at method 2 below.
Method 2: Therapy
I cannot stress this enough, but therapy is for everyone regardless of their mental health state. It is the best way to process emotions with a professional, introspect your decisions, and have a better life. So many people believe that therapy is where you pay someone to listen to your problems, but that is really the tip of the iceberg. A good therapist provides you with methods to feel confident in yourself in stressful situations, helps you through morally ambiguous choices through a new perspective and most of all keeps your mental health in check.
Just as you would go to the doctor for a regular checkup, you go to the therapist for a regular check-in with yourself, especially during stressful times. If you live in India and are looking for a therapist near you, I would recommend you go to https://thelivelovelaughfoundation.org/
This is the website of an NGO (The Live Love Laugh Foundation) that is working towards providing better mental health resources to Indians.
Over 3 sections of this series of Handling Emotions Effectively, we have covered 3 essential steps to take control of your emotions and deal with them in a healthy manner. The first section dealt with recognizing emotions and what it means to be emotionally intelligent. The second part talked about support systems and asking for help to create an environment where you can deal with emotional duress without taking on any extra or excess stress. And finally, in this last part, we discussed acknowledging the past and moving forward by making well-informed decisions. These steps create a good base for anyone to approach complex emotional problems with a sense of structure and confidence even in difficult times.
I really hope you liked this series and that it helps you in handling your emotions effectively. If you found this useful, please share it with your friends through social media, it helps support this website. Finally, if you want more series, let me know in the comments below and I’ll try to bring more pieces in a format like this.