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Emotion Decision Points: On the Verge of the Emotional Abyss



Decision Point

Have you had the experience of finding yourself filled with emotion and faced with a decision: you can either give into the emotions and act on them regardless of the consequences or do what is more effective but less emotionally satisfying?

Most of us have found ourselves on the horns of this dilemma. When you put it down on paper, it seems simple. Of course you should take the more effective course of action. In the moment when you are filled with strong emotion, however, it is not so easy. The pull towards emotion is powerful.

The Emotional Abyss

It feels sort of like standing on a precipice. You could jump into the chasm of emotion in front of you. You know those first few seconds would be exhilarating feeling the rush of relief and adrenaline as you soar off the cliff. The problem comes after that initial high as you start to plummet into an emotional abyss. Just like falling into a ravine, being consumed with emotion can leave you disoriented & uncertain which way is up and which way is down. Once you are in it, getting out is a challenge.

Avoidance Edge

On the other hand, you don’t want to stay stuck at the edge of the cliff powerless to move forward, which is what it is like when you suppress or ignore emotion. The best option is to slowly make your way across the canyon on a rope bridge. Emotions can give us good information. You want to stay in touch with your emotions but not lean into or act on them. Just as the rope bridge keeps you in contact with the canyon without falling in, you want to acknowledge your emotions without being a slave to them.

Walking the Rope Bridge

So, how do you walk that rope bridge? You keep your destination in the forefront of your mind. Direct your focus on your goals and the things that matter most. When your mind and emotions start trying to drag you down into the emotional abyss, guide your focus back to your goals & remind yourself of how your chosen course of action is moving you towards them. Repeat to yourself, “I’m choosing effectiveness.”

If the emotions keep interfering, you can always do the opposite of what the emotions are telling you to do. What do I mean? Most emotions are accompanied by action urges. When you feel angry, for example, you might have the urge to slam a door. That is an action urge. Whatever the action urge associated with the emotion, do the opposite of it. In the slamming the door example, you could close the door very gently and with great care, in other words the opposite of slamming it.

You can also use acceptance techniques to just allow the emotions to be present without doing anything to them. Whatever method you select, just keep at it.

It's a Challenge. Just Ask Me.

I know this can be a tall order, trust me. I came up with the idea for this blog when I got tricked into an expensive subscription that I thought was a free trial. I was livid when I got a big bill and even more furious when I tried to cancel the service only to be told I was stuck for 6 months. I wanted to chew out the salesperson that had taken advantage of me and lash out emotionally. Luckily my husband reminded me that effectiveness was a better route so I spent some time sorting through my emotions and decided on a more effective course of action. If I couldn’t get out of the subscription, I could advocate for the service to start producing more results. Even after I started on my more effective path, the siren call of my emotions urging me to fling myself into the emotional abyss kept pulling at my attention. Each time, I had to acknowledge those emotions (with an increasingly curt metaphorical nod) and recommit to my rope bridge avenue of effectiveness.

To Sum It Up

Was being effective as emotionally satisfying as giving into my feelings and tearing into the people I viewed as responsible for taking advantage of me? No. Has it worked out for the better and allowed me to stay consistent with my goals and values? Yes, definitely. And in the long run that is more satisfying. As an added bonus, sticking with effectiveness inspired me to do this vlog episode that might help others out.

The Take Away

So next time you feel yourself at that emotional decision point, remember that the best way forward is the path of effectiveness. Even if it doesn’t always feel that way.

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