• Tricia Thornton

Balance in 2021:  Managing our Emotions and the Ripple Effect

“There's no "should" or "should not" when it comes to having feelings. They're part of who we are and their origins are beyond our control. When we can believe that, we may find it easier to make constructive choices about what to do with those feelings.” ― Fred Rogers, The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember


What exactly is a ripple versus a wave? Ripples are the instant effect of wind on water and they die down as quickly as they form, as the surface tension of the water dampens their efforts. If a wind blows steadily across a large enough patch of water for a few hours then the ripples become waves and these will not be dampened so easily (naturalnavigator.com)


Interesting! If a ripple is combined with a strong enough wind, a wave will develop that is harder to control. Is there a correlation to how feelings can ripple throughout our lives and our relationships, leaving waves as a result? How is Mr. Rogers statement about feelings play out today?


Here are five ways that we can achieve balance and not to allow the ripples turn into waves:

  1. Acknowledge your own feelings.

  2. Hear the feelings of others.

  3. Identify how your feelings manifest in your body.

  4. Learn ways to control your feelings from becoming out of control.

  5. Balance your big feelings.

Acknowledge your own feelings. This step can take time, but it is the most important part of achieving balance. Mr. Rogers says it well. There are no right or wrong feelings, it is what we do with them that makes the difference. We want to identify whatever we are feeling, even when they are negative. We also want to learn to not fear our emotions. By simply stating how you feel can be done in several ways, for example through journaling, expressive art activities, and talking. Having a professional during this step can be helpful as you navigate the sea of feelings that begin to surface.


Hear the feelings of others. Just as important it is to know your own feelings, you must be able to hear the feelings of others. Once you realize another's feelings, then you can begin to separate them from yourself. Hearing other's feelings will allow them to feel heard and seen. This step continues the process of keeping the ripples small and not turning into waves.


Identify how your feelings manifest in your body. Each emotion we have has an effect on our body. We all feel them differently. I once had a runner as a client, and they would feel their anger in their legs. Which symptoms do you feel? Some common ways are heart palpitations, tense all over (or in one particular part of your body), stomach aches, headaches, sweating, exhaustion, and a racing sensation? For example, once you realize how your anger feels, then you can begin to take control of the emotion.


Learn ways to control your feelings from becoming out of control. Learning the ways your feelings effect your body, then you can start the process of controlling them. There are several ways to then curb your big feelings: exercise, deep breathing, mindfulness, journaling, doing the five senses activity, thinking positive thoughts, etc. You may find using several avenues to control your emotions is helpful. Remember this step will take some trial and error and some time. The stronger the feeling, the more time it may require to control.


Balance your big feelings. Once you have done the first 4 steps, you are then ready to begin the balancing act. If you have heart palpitations when you begin to feel anger, then once that symptom starts, you can then immediately start the exercise to calm yourself. The balance is achieved when you realize your feelings are separate from others and each of your feelings are your own. You can choose how to control your feelings and not always in react to others.


In summary, balance is our goal. Each of us has two buckets to be filled each day: empowerment (power) and being heard and/or seen. The 5 steps mentioned above can help you to fill your own buckets as well as others. Once the buckets are filled, you will begin to feel more free. Freedom is the reward of feeling balanced.



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Tricia Thornton, MA, LPC, RPT

615-212-9977

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