Trauma and Emotions
by Teresia Smith
Do you ever feel like you are riding an emotional rollercoaster? One day, it’s smooth sailing and everything seems fine. Then, unexpectedly a hill of tribulation appears in your life and you start climbing, thinking you are making headway and then over the top you tumble, feeling as though you are freefalling into space. The mind is capable of feeling so much and mastering emotions can be extremely difficult. Often, it is our mind that controls us, instead of the other way round. Not that you shouldn’t feel emotions, because you should. Even the hard ones like sadness, grief and anger. It’s all part of being a human. However, when we allow our emotions to rule our thoughts and actions, we usually regret it later. Letting our emotions get the best of us can cause great turmoil in our lives. But, we can work to manage our emotions and stop the mayhem. By controlling our emotions, we are able to minimize negative effects and rise above our feelings before we make decisions that could affect our lives.
Have you ever heard the phrase “fake it until you make it”? It actually comes from a belief by some psychologists that what we feel can be affected by our body language and facial expressions. For instance, they believe if you are feeling downcast, you can alter your state of mind to a positive one by forcing a smile on your face. When you smile, your brain detects a body change and perceives it as a sign of happiness and this in turn, brings about a biochemical changes that actually makes you feel more pleasant.
Another factor that can be used to control your feelings is focus. Begin by learning to focus on the good, especially in times when you feeling sad. I am sure you have heard someone tell you to “count your blessings”. There is wisdom in that saying. Thinking of all the blessings you have received and being thankful for each one will help to bring you joy. In the midst of an argument with someone you love, stop and recall good memories you have shared with that person and that will help to alleviate some of the anger you may feel. If you only focus on bad things or adversity, you will invite in negative emotions. Many times, what you focus on and think about will be what you feel.
If you are facing misfortune or difficulty, there are some ways to react. First, give yourself time to react appropriately. Take a deep breath, count to ten, and work to calm down before making any decisions. If you are feeling negative emotions or just in a dull mood, walking or running are great ways to release those feelings. Taking a walk in nature can energize you and put you in a positive mood. Continue to remind yourself of positive memories and pay attention to positive experiences. Work to incorporate new positive experiences into your day. Find a new book, watch a new movie, and consider traveling and meeting new people or experiencing new cultures. These things can be quite healing for many as they help gain new perspectives and wisdom. As you begin each day, make use of positive affirmations. As soon as you awaken, tell yourself an affirmation such as “I am in control of how I feel today” or “there is nothing I cannot work through today”. Work to control your mind instead of your mind controlling you.
If you have experienced trauma, especially trauma due to sexual assault or intimate partner violence, chances are you have a lot of strong emotions that affect your life every day. Having a safe place to unpack those emotions can be vital to working on gaining control of your life. Crisis Services of North Alabama offers free services in a safe, confidential setting. You may reach us at our Jackson County office 256.574.5826 or our 24/7 HELPline 256.716.1000 or you may email me at Teresia@csna.org for other options.