I’m an emotional person. I get passionate about inanimate objects like books and courses I’m signed up for. And often the results aren’t pretty.
One thing has massively changed how I manage my negative emotional responses. It’s something that seems so blatantly obvious, that I don’t know why I hadn’t realised it before:
Dividing my feelings into two types: primary or secondary emotions.
Let me explain. Primary emotions are those that I feel in direct response to something. I fail - so I feel bad. I hurt someone - so I feel guilty. I get shouted at - so I feel sad. I don’t get a response from a friend - so I feel abandoned.
I now see primary emotions as normal, healthy, human, justified, evolutionary responses to what happens in the world.
Secondary emotions are those that kill me. I don’t study for 2 days so I feel guilty, but then I feel frustrated at myself for feeling guilty. I fail at something and feel bad - but then I feel angry for feeling sad when I should rather be working. Someone does something mean and I feel hurt - and then I feel sad for letting it get to me.
Secondary emotions are bull**t. While the primary ones are a normal response, the secondary ones are overthinking gone wild.
Primary emotions don’t last long. Think of it, how long can you feel pure burning anger for? Probably 5 minutes max. But I can probably feel guilty for being so angry for weeks later.
Secondary emotions don’t go away easily. They stick, and they spiral. I can’t really spiral into a primary emotion, it’s more raw and temporary. But I can brew and brew and fall deeper and deeper into secondary self-hate, anger or sadness.
So I don’t tolerate a secondary emotion, and fully lean into my primary ones.
When I’m feeling bad - I try to identify what it really is. Sadness? Loneliness? Anger? Hurt? Guilt? I let it do its thing, there’s probably a reason for it.
But the second I realise what I’m feeling is a secondary emotion: anger for being sad, guilt for feeling lonely, I stop right there. I ignore the secondary emotion, I go back to the first, and let it run its 3 or 5 minute course, and move on with my day.
It has been life changing.
I would love to hear if this sounds mad or if you’ve known it all along.
Hoping you have an amazing week,