I want to share something with you. It changed my life when I finally realized what I'm about to tell you, but that was so long ago that I forget now that not everyone shares this basic assumption. It's recently come to my attention again. So I thought I would share it here.
Emotions are just information.
They tell us something, about how we are feeling and about what is going on around us. All too often though we misinterpret this information, allowing our emotions to govern us, and that can cause problems.
More often than not, emotions tell us a lot more about ourselves and what's going on inside us than what is happening outside of us. How we feel about what someone said often has very little to do with their intent in saying it, or even with the actual content. It has more to do with how we have been conditioned to respond to certain situation by our life circumstances. You know that person who always overreacts to a gentle correction? Their emotional reaction is completely disproportionate to the situation. Odds are that their takeaway from the moment is that no one appreciates how hard they work, or something. What they should be doing is asking themselves, "Why do I respond so strongly to mild criticism? What is it about me that I find it so upsetting?"
These are the kinds of questions that lead toward wholeness, and understanding and healing eventually.
Taking our emotional response at face value without considering it often leaves us hurt, and the people around us hurt as well.
If you are feeling abnormally angry and irritated at your children for leaving a mess all over the floor of their room you can be reasonably sure that it's not because they are being abnormally naughty. Those emotions are more likely telling you that lack of sleep is catching up to you, or that you need to stop skipping breakfast, or that you are still upset over the last conversation you had with a friend.
When you are feeling as though your husband is distant and cold or angry it's just as likely that the information you are supposed to gain is that you have insecurities, you feel guilty about a mistake you made, or you need more social outlets than you are getting.
And let's not even talk about the tricks your emotions can play when you are hormonal. Can we just agree not to act on any thing we may feel or think as a result of those feelings for at least 4 days? You will always regret the fight you had while you were PMSing. If you just hold your tongue for a day or two it will all look different. That is, if you can realize, really understand, that feelings, while true, can be misleading and that you shouldn't act on them without careful consideration of their real implications.
If you can understand this, you will be happier, and your relationships will be healthier. I guarantee it.