The Emotion Monster

In real time, it’s Halloween weekend. So everywhere I go, I’m seeing ghosts and skeletons and all kinds of monsters. But today we’re talking about a monster that shows its face year round. I’m calling him the Emotion Monster. You know, the one that looms over your shoulder on those rough days. Or the one who hides under your bed and makes his presence known right as you’re trying to fall asleep. The one that, if you’re like me, you tend to run away from. Or you pretend he’s not even there in the first place. Unfortunately, I’ve found that’s just not how he works. 

Turns out, the more you run from (or ignore) the Emotion Monster, the more he shows his face. He really, really wants your attention. And he’ll do anything to get it. He’ll mess with your sleep cycle. He’ll make it really hard to focus on things. He’ll make you feel out of it, not quite yourself, like the world is spinning around you but you’re stuck in slow motion. 

Today, I’m exactly a week out from a moment that brought up some difficult things for me. Things that, until now, I hadn’t quite taken the time to sit with. Instead, I went on with my life like normal. Actually, I took “normal” life and then doubled it. I found ways to make myself busier than I needed to be, unconsciously running away from the Emotion Monster that kept trying to tap me on the shoulder. I didn’t have time for him – he’d have to go away and mind his own business. 

Shockingly enough (or not), he didn’t go away. He continued to show his presence for the rest of the week, leaving me feeling drained at the end of each day, unmotivated and easily frustrated. I didn’t feel like myself and I knew something was up, but instead of slowing down and letting myself figure it out, I just attributed it to the “busy” week I was having. In other words, I busied myself to keep from feeling difficult feelings, which only brought up more difficult feelings, which I went ahead and blamed on the very thing I was using to avoid the difficult feelings in the first place. Oof. No wonder I was exhausted. 

Then, something amazing happened. My fiance, who knows me better than anyone, willed me to talk about it. To talk about the thing that happened last week and had been bothering me ever since. And it came pouring out of me. So much that was bottled up in there that I didn’t even realize was there, because I had never let it out in the first place. 

And it just so happens that the Emotion Monster wasn’t nearly as scary as I thought he was. Because once I let it out, that big scary emotion I was feeling, it didn’t feel quite as big or as scary. Yes, that emotion was still there and yes, it still brought up some fear, but now I had a name for it. I could describe it. I could figure out where it came from and why it made me feel the way it did. I could understand it a little better. And once I was able to do that, I was able to move forward. 

I truly think that the main reason we run from the Emotion Monster is because we think of him as a monster. As a scary, unapproachable thing that we want to avoid at all costs. And we’re not necessarily wrong. Emotions often bring up a lot of fear, vulnerability and struggle – and those are all scary things. But I think it’s important to remember that acknowledging your emotions doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to do anything with them. I was so afraid of coming to terms with this difficult feeling I was experiencing because I wasn’t sure what to do with it once it was out there. But my fiance’s response was extremely helpful. He reminded me, “You don’t have to ‘figure it out.’ You just have to sit with it and let it be there.” It definitely feels scary to let the Emotion “Monster” in, but once you do, you start to get used to his presence. Maybe he’ll start to feel like an old friend (think Mike Wazowski from Monsters Inc.). Maybe he’ll help you understand yourself a little better. If anything, he’ll definitely start to feel a little less scary.

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