Feelings spread like a virus


Somedays, I just feel off; cranky, anxious, or unsettled. 

I used to resist those feelings, often busying myself to try to avoid them. Anxiety was a constant companion, causing me to rush and push through my days. I pushed uncomfortable emotions down, and tried to pretend I was fine. 

I may have been trying to fake it, but I was only fooling myself. Those feelings leaked out everywhere, and everyone was aware, but me. 

When I felt off, I used to look for something outside of myself to blame as the reasons for my ‘offness.’ I could usually find something to blame. Often, this would lead to challenges for people close to me. 

My uncomfortable feelings became theirs. A simple feeling of irritation could spread and taint my day, even my week, and the lives of those around me. It got complicated.

I’ve watched ripples of crankiness spread like a virus, even infecting innocent people, such as tellers at the grocery store, whose day becomes infected by irritable customers. The clerk may have even take the virus home and spread it to their family at the end of day.

Knowing what to do with uncomfortable or overwhelming emotions used to be such a mystery to me, but no more.

Being human should come with an instruction manual.

So many aspects of the human condition remain a mystery. We can feel like a victim to our nature.

Emotions are an important evolutionary capacity. We have connective and protective emotions. We need them to stay safe, to say boundaries have been breached, or that something’s wrong. We also need them to connect, and to come together.

Some of our stronger emotions can affect the way our brains work and how we perceive the world. While I want the information my emotions have to offer me, I don’t want them running the show. 

Each of us has preferred emotions, and ones we’d rather not have. 

It’s not one-size-fits-all when it comes to feelings. Society, family, and personal beliefs about which emotions are OK, and which ones aren’t, is unique to each of us.

At times, I felt victim to my emotions, and I’m sure those close to me felt the same.

Becoming gently curious about my emotions, and becoming mindful about what I do with uncomfortable ones has been empowering. Mindfulness has been key.

Dr. Dan Siegel, professor of psychology and co-director of the Mindful Awareness Research Centre at the University of Southern California, has coined the phrase about strong emotions, “name it to tame it.”

Using this simple strategy, we learn what our emotions are telling us rather than being overwhelmed by them.

A practice I’ve found transformative in de-escalating uncomfortable emotions is simply noticing, without judgment, when I’m experiencing powerful emotion.

I turn toward the feeling; I pause and take a couple of deep breaths, and then name what I’m feeling. I’ve learned that turning toward what’s uncomfortable and naming it, is empowering and transformative.

It’s led to some light-hearted banter in our house. 

My husband used to ask me why I felt irritable or crabby when I’d share how I was feeling. I’d find myself chuckling, as I told him, “Nothing, but if you want, I could make it about you, like I did in the old days.” He’s so relieved to be off the hook.

Whether I’m feeling crabby, irritable, or anxious, simply pausing to put words to what I’m feeling is a powerful place to begin. 

As I turn toward what’s uncomfortable, breathe, and name it without having to root for a cause, the feeling starts to lose its intensity and power. I begin to see more clearly.

I’ve given up searching for the reason behind my feelings, trusting that if I need to know, it will arise. 

I may have to repeat this process a few times, but it’s well worth the time, because resisting them only seems to intensify the emotion. As Carl Jung shared, “what you resist, not only persists, but will grow in size.”

Next time uncomfortable emotions arise, pause, breathe, and turn toward what you’re feeling, and name it. Repeat if necessary. 

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About the Author

Corinne is first a wife, mother, and grandmother, whose eclectic background has created a rich alchemy that serves to inform her perspectives on life.

Corinne, a registered nurse with a master’s degree in Health Science, is a staff minister with the Centre for Spiritual Living Kelowna, and a hospice volunteer. She is an adjunct professor with the school of nursing  at UBC Okanagan, and is currently teaching smartUBC, a unique Mindfulness program offered at UBC, to the public. She is an invited speaker and presenter.

From diverse experience and knowledge, personally and professionally, Corinne has developed an extraordinary passion for helping people to gain a new perspective, awaken, and to recognize that we do not have to be a slave to our thoughts or to life; we are always at a point of change.

Through this column, Corinne blends her insights and research to provide food for the mind and the heart, to encourage an awakening of the power and potential within everyone.

Corinne lives in Kelowna with her husband of 41 years, and can be reached at [email protected].

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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