Two different concepts that often come up for handling emotions might at first appear contradictory:
1) In order to handle emotions effectively, a person has to be able to step back and notice what they feel (observe).
2) In order to survive strong emotions, a person needs to fully experience the nuances and physiological discomfort that arises when emotion is present (enter into the experience).
Can you see how both of these concepts make sense?
Being able to step back and observe emotions is effective because it increases options and awareness for how to respond to emotional material. Without the ability to “stand by”, a person might immediately act on their emotion. When a person always acts on their emotions, he/ she might regret it later. For instance, if you become really angry at someone you care about, you might lash out. The ability to “step back” and observe what you are feeling can help you organize a thoughtful response in which you maintain integrity, speak clearly, and feel better about yourself later. Sometimes refraining from taking immediate action is very effective.
On the other had, a willingness to experience strong emotions when they arise is a critical element to being human and being alive. Emotions give us very important information that we can’t always ignore. When we experience emotions fully, we are in touch with what matters. When we suppress, hide, ignore, or push away strong feelings they may become worse or “blow up” on us down the road.
In some ways, a person can both experience and observe emotion. A willingness to get in touch with what hurts and to hold off on any immediate reactions can increases options for the best response.