How to be more playful with the emotions that rise throughout the day
Lately I’ve been practicing a technique that I like to call “The personification of emotions”, which was inspired by the movie “Inside Out.”
In the movie each of her emotions has a specific character that lives inside of her head. Although she’s unaware of them, they each have a cute way of acting out their individual personalities
Here’s some examples….
But while Riley (the girl in the movie) is unaware of these characters in her head, I’m well aware of these unwelcome visitors, and I have a technique of how I deal with them.
What does this mean/How do I do it?
Quite simply, I pretend that different emotions are merely characters in my head. I pretend that they are a cartoon that came to visit.
For example, the other day something happened at work and I felt frustrated. This frustration then quickly became distraction. I had a hard time letting go of the situation and it continued to circle around my mind.
So what did I do? I pretended that frustration was a furry fox that came to visit me and was messing up my day. And instead of fighting him and resisting, I welcomed him just like I would an annoying friend who I didn’t want to visit but was there anyway.
“Hey Frustration! What’s good!?! I know you’re trying to help me think through this situation properly, but you’re kind of distracting me. Can you come back some other time? I genuinely appreciate your help but it’s not working right now.”
The key here is that I’m playful with the unwanted emotion. Instead of resisting it, instead of avoiding it, I acknowledge it’s presence, I thank it for what it’s trying to do, and then I let go of it.
By letting go of it, I create the space for my other, more rational and calm, emotions to step in instead. It prevents me from over-reacting, blindly reacting, or doing something that I will later regret.
This also helps us to break the thought loop. By stepping in and acknowledging it’s presence, I break the cycle of thoughts running through my mind. I change the nature of the dialogue. Otherwise, the thoughts spiral out of control and cause me to do something stupid.
The other important aspect is that I thank the emotion for trying to help me. Most of our negative emotions are actually there to try and help us – they’re just not very good at it! I believe that it’s healthy to acknowledge that this emotion is there in an attempt to help you solve your problems, it’s just not the best candidate to do the job.
So what can we do instead? Smile at the furry creature running through your mind, thank him for trying to help, and then choose a different emotion that is better suited to solve your problems.
The best part is that we can do this with any unwanted emotion as well.
“Hey Doubt and Skepticism, I know you’re trying to help me make the best decision and I’m grateful for your help but you’re kinda fucking up my mood right now. Can you come back some other time? Thanks!”
“Hey Anger, I know that you’re trying to help me express myself but you’re really overwhelming me right now. I’m going to try and take a few deep breaths and let calm come in instead.”
Personally, I find it fun to imagine these emotions as characters.
Anger is a little red fireball jumping around impatiently.
Doubt is a grumpy blueberry.
Skepticism is an old man with glasses who is constantly giving me a condescending glance.
Anxiety is an old Jewish grandma who worries about everything.
The personification helps me to take the emotions a bit less seriously. To not listen and engage with them so much. To laugh at them in their absurdity.
What do these emotions look like to you if you imagined them as cartoons? Try to get creative! Use the movie as inspiration if you need to. Draw pictures or imagine characters from other movies!
The next time that your friends frustration, anger, doubt, or anxiety come knocking on the door, try to picture them in some way that makes them a bit lighter so that it doesn’t grab your attention as much. Giggle at them, because in the end they are just thoughts, and while they are visiting for a brief period of time that doesn’t mean they need to develop permanent residence.
I hope that this method can serve you in your daily life when our not-so-friendly emotions come trying to grab our attention.
Also published on Medium.