Improving a Complex Emotional Life

By: Nate Webster, IMH

Our emotions are more like their own living creature than many of us would like to admit. We have to feed them and let them out and we also need to listen to them and give them time to vent. But many of us have a love-hate relationship with our emotions. Sometimes our emotions awkwardly make messes all over life, and other times they feel so locked up in a chest we’re not sure how we’ll ever pry them out! Well, many things contribute to what I like to call a “Complex Emotional Life” or CEL for short. Below are four behaviors that may be keeping you in your CEL.

Your emotions aren’t a hurdle, they’re a compass: If you want to get out of your CEL, start paying more attention to what your feelings may be saying instead of trying so hard to make them go away. If you’re always anxious, think about what may be scaring you? Maybe you find yourself sad, reflect on how your needs are not being met. If you treat your negative feelings more like a compass that may be leading you to what is wrong in your life, you will get a much better return on the things you’re feeling. You will perhaps even alleviate some of your chronic struggles with negative emotions as well.

There may be no space in your life to feel: Sometimes the impossible is solved with the practical. Before you go and do something drastic to change the way you feel, simply try creating some space in your life first. No one gets out of their vehicle at a stoplight to start cleaning their car. They take 2 hours of time with a proper bucket, maybe a radio and a friend to really scrub everything down. Your heart is not so much different! One way to create space for your emotions is to have a few hours where your mind and heart are not so occupied and distracted by technology and work. Do an activity that would allow your mind to slow down and your emotions to decompress. Then after this time, try spending a moment journaling, writing a song, drawing a picture or talking to a friend. You’ll be amazed at how rejuvenated you’ll feel.

Don’t bury them alive: Humor is a great way to sometimes deal with our emotions. That’s why it may be helpful for you to treat your emotions like potential zombies! Yes zombies. You see, how often do you bury your emotions alive, only for them to rise from the grave uglier and stronger than when you buried them? Avoid emotional zombies in your life by not burying them before they’ve been resolved. Have you really felt the things that are bothering you, or are you rushing through them to get to the other side? Are your emotions like the person who calls you, who you don’t really like talking to? Or are they the friend whose text messages you savor whenever they show up in your phone?

Flying birds don’t need to nest in your hair: One of my favorite sayings is, ”Birds can fly over your head, but they don’t need to nest in your hair.” This is a fitting analogy for our emotional lives. Perhaps part of the reason you find yourself in such a CEL is because you keep giving every one of your feelings a nest. Like an animal lover going to the pound, you can’t help yourself but adopt every dog or cat you see, even if it means you’ll run out of space, time and money. Not every emotion is good to adopt. The best way I learned to let feelings go was to change the way I saw them. I learned that some emotions just come as a result of pretty uncontrollable and spontaneous activity occurring in my brain. This meant that I wasn’t the owner and creator of every feeling I felt. I could distance myself, while remembering that birds can fly over my head but they don’t need to nest in my hair!


If you’re wrestling with a complex emotional life and would like some help to get out of your “CEL”, Life Works Group is a great place to start. You can visit us at LifeWorksGroup.org or call us at 407.647.7005

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