“Big Feelings”

I strongly believe that life’s simplest and most important lessons are learned when we’re very, very young.

Take these for example:

  • It’s important to share
  • We don’t hit
  • Say please and thank-you
  • If you need to go to the bathroom, tell someone (this is a big one)

Important, right? I’ve been thinking about these kinds of lessons a lot recently.

You see, my wife is an early education teacher –she currently wrangles twelve 1-year-olds– and I get a front row seat to some awesome stories about her kids. Each afternoon I get to hear all about their triumphs, their struggles, and their constant growth. It’s great! There’s so much to be learned from watching these tiny people grow.

There’s one lesson, though, that stands out to me for it’s simplicity and profundity.

Occasionally, one of the kids’ world comes crashing to a halt– things are intense when you’re only a year old. These derailings happen when someone gets suddenly scared, or furiously angry, or overwhelmingly sad, or any number of potent (and, honestly, super new) feelings that they have no idea how to handle. During these meltdowns, things escalate extremely quickly because, in addition to the original emotion, the child in question is now overwhelmed by the sheer volume of feelings they are experiencing. Suddenly, what started as a small inconvenience or setback feels like the end of the world, and, for the kids, there’s just no way out.  At this point, my wife, K, will rush in with a hug and do her best to comfort the child. And while she’s talking to them and trying to ease them back down to earth, she will often tell them a simple thing that I think we as adults often forget:

It’s ok to have big feelings.

I don’t know why, but the first time that K told me about this quiet reassurance I was astounded by the beautiful simplicity of the sentiment.

I mean, how often do we have big feelings that we don’t really know how to handle? I know, personally, I often get overwhelmed by the weight of my responsibilities, or stress, or anger about things going on in the world around me. When my depression has been super bad, or when I eat my way through a period of stress (I’m talking unlimited baked goods for weeks and pizza for dinner multiple nights in a row), or even when I feel overly proud about something good that’s happened, I tend to feel guilty because I’m not as in control of my emotions as I “should” be. At these times I have to try really hard to remind myself that it’s ok to have big feelings, and that what matters is what we do with them. Because, as adults, we have options at our disposal during these times that K’s toddlers don’t. And, unless we’re careful, those options can have lasting consequences.

Think about it for a minute.

Do you sometimes drink too much to dull the pain of loss, or stress, or hurt? Or do you, as I often do, lash out at the people you love because you’re just so overwhelmed and feel bad about feeling bad? How many of us say terrible, horrible, things to ourselves when we are frustrated by our own lack of emotional “control”? I know I certainly do. Individually, these actions are relatively harmless, but, over time, they can do lasting damage.

So, I guess, consider this me swooping in with with one of K’s hugs. Maybe you’re not experiencing any right now (or maybe you are), but I want to remind you that it’s ok to have big feelings. I know that sometimes they can be overwhelming, or scary, or painful, or any number of things, but I think it’s really, really important that we allow ourselves to feel them. It’s ok. More importantly, it’s healthy. If you’re experiencing something bigger than you know how to handle, reach out. If someone in your circle is struggling, check on them. Emotions can be hard, but I promise we’ll be ok.

Thanks for reading, you’ve got this,

-Ian

39 thoughts on ““Big Feelings”

  1. It’s a thoughtful post, making to think about dealing with big feelings. Although we may be overwhelmed with such, it is important to live through each emotion and reflect on it, as each feeling is part of our life.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Great post! I often lash out at the ones I want the hug from the most. It’s a more deep rooted issue on my part but something I’m working on in therapy. But having big feelings and sitting with them for a bit should be something we lean into more as adults. Well said!

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  3. Lovely post! Big feelings are so important to acknowledge and embrace because it is apart of who we are. But feelings matter and should never be ignored. Ignoring our feelings only create rooms for disaster. We are strong and we can embrace our feelings with strength and bravery. Thanks so much for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great post. I really like the examples that you mentioned. I find myself saying thank you to my co-workers when they have done the job that I am ask them to do to be or feel more appreciated.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. One of the complications I have is that my mom put so much of her own self-esteem in her parenting. When I had a meltdown she couldn’t soothe (because, doh, OCPD means a lot of big feelings), she saw it as her failure as a parentβ€”rather than a child with a mental illness. Knowing what I know now, I’m paying attention to my triggers (like time) that make me more stressed, and giving myself the tools I need to feel those feelings. Thank you!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Excellent point! I think giving ourselves time to just be with our emotions can often help is understand WHY we are feeling them. For those of us with mental illnesses I think this can be extra important because there are massive differences in how we deal with a normal big feeling or a symptom of our disorders.

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    1. I agree! If we could just accept our feelings for what they are, and have them accepted by others, I really think we could be much happier and healthier

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  6. I too tend to beat myself up mentally when I’m experiencing strong emotions. This is a great reminder for everyone β™₯️ Thanks for sharing! Your wife sounds like a wonderful teacher.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I absolutely love this post, and I love that it’s about Big Feelings! We all have them and so many people don’t know how to handle them for one reason or another but bringing awareness to it is super important! I know I was one to lash out when I get overwhelmed and therapy definitely helped with that when I was younger.

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    1. Totally! I think helping people normalize experiencing intense emotion can help give them a jumping off point for learning how to better handle them 😊

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  8. Simple and valuable advice from a great teacher! I’m definitely guilty of not handling my emotions well. I’ve started meditating as a way to cope with emotions that may be overwhelming. I’ve learned to give myself the same advice I give my children. I think that is why people say you have to heal your inner child. Thanks for sharing this helped me!

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  9. I super agree to this! It’s really okay to feel what you feel. We don’t have to feel guilty or have second thoughts because we know deep inside it is what we really is feeling. Lovely post you have here! ❀

    Liked by 1 person

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