The Emotional Palette

Emotions are like colors.  We start out life with a clean canvas, and our experiences and the way we interact with them informs what colors we will use to ‘paint.’  Each new experience expands our palette and gives us more color options.  Depression or even just ‘being in a funk’ can be like the yucky brown color if that’s all you see, but one thing I try to do is remember that brown is just one of the colors I have, and that eventually I will move on to a different one.  Sometimes that takes some (or a staggering amount of) work though.

One problem I have is that circumstances overwhelm me.  E. will throw up in the car, I burn the meal I’m making, the bread doesn’t rise, etc. etc.  One of these things at a time is not usually enough to send me to the bad place.  But each time something little happens, it takes me a minute to recover.  And if I’m in the middle of processing it when something else happens, then I get…overloaded.

I have good days and bad days.  Every now and then, I have a really bad one and then snap out of it the next day.  Much less frequently, I can’t seem to get back to normal the next day either, and that’s when I start to worry.  Then I start to access the support system (friends and family with good listening ears) I have put in place for just such an occasion.

Another thing that is key in dealing with my new emotional palette is realizing what my thought patterns are like.  Feelings are fairly uncontrollable for me.  They tend to swirl around in my brain and not make much sense.  But when I can link an emotion to something I am thinking, then I can do something about it.  I can control my thoughts.  I cannot control what thoughts pop into my brain; so I don’t consider that all thoughts that pass through my consciousness are mine.  But I am trying to learn to be more careful about what thoughts I take and make my own by embellishing them and dwelling on them.  Goodness, this is abstract!  Let me try a concrete example:

Today, I took E. out to lunch.  We went to a sushi place and I think we were the only people there not in business casual attire.  I began to feel self-conscious about being the sloppy housewife with the jeans and t-shirt and the greasy ponytail.  A woman at the table next to us kept glancing over.  I tried to figure out what it meant.  She must think I am so frumpy!  She looks so put-together…I look so gross!  Why didn’t I take a shower this morning?  And on, and on, and on…ad exaustium.

About 2 minutes into this little pity party, I suddenly realized that I had no right to judge this woman based on the fact that she glanced at us a few times (yes, assuming that someone is thinking bad things about you IS judging them).  So I made an intentional choice to assume the best of her and went on with my lunch.  As we were leaving, she smiled at E. and the people at the table with her told me how cute she was.  I felt like a jerk.  But not a frumpy one.

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