Have you ever met someone who you’d describe as “bitter” or “anxious”? Those people have been recycling their emotions.
When you recycle emotions, they harden. Anger recycled turns into bitterness. Fear recycled turned into anxiety. Gratefulness recycled turns into happiness.
When you don’t let your brain process an emotion fully, when you run from it, then it stays in the back of your mind. This isn’t anything revolutionary – it’s basic psychology. When you don’t accept and acknowledge and give space to the fear or anger you feel, it festers.
Maybe you’re afraid that your child isn’t doing well in school. When they come home 30 minutes late, you lose it. You yell at them. You reprimand them for failing to listen to you and that provides you temporary relief. Really though, what you’re feeling is a deep fear that your child won’t have a happy life. You’re afraid that if they don’t focus on school, then they will never have a good job and they will always be struggling to get by.
If you don’t want to turn into an “anxious person”, it’s incredibly important that you stop running from that fear. Next time it arises, acknowledge it. Don’t run from it. It will feel astonishingly uncomfortable but just do it. Let the fear sit in your body.
Emotions last at most 90 seconds.
You’ll see that the fervor of your emotion will die down. The fear might still be there, but by acknowledging it, you’re able to control it. Awareness brings control.
Next time your kid messes up, instead of freaking out and not being able to focus on the rest of your life, you can explicitly tell yourself “this is making me panic because I’m worried Jimmy won’t have a happy life and all I want in this world is for Jimmy to be happy”. After explicitly telling yourself why you’re upset, you open up space to think about “what now”. What can you do that’s different because obviously yelling at Jimmy isn’t helping.
When you stop running and avoiding your negative emotions, then you stop recycling them.