5 Things "I'm so emotional" is code for
I did it again. Even though I know better! I was freaking out on the phone with my daughter's teacher, apologizing and offering this one simple explanation for my behavior, "I'm just so emotional!"
I'm pretty sure she hears such utterances often, I mean we ALL get emotional about our children...But, I know that there's so much more to the statement, "I'm so emotional" because the reality is we are emotional beings, our feelings are there no matter what!
Our emotions are one of the gifts of our humanity. And they have an important role to play in our day-to-day lives. According to Karla McLaren, "Emotions are action-requiring neurological programs. They're not positive or negative, glorious or shameful, right or wrong; they're action-requiring neurological programs."
I used to get combative when someone would say, "I'm just so emotional" because I knew that was a loaded statement. Instead, I would try to show them how emotions are valuable, helpful, insightful and necessary to our survival as a species...but my training in Conversational Intelligence taught me to take a step back and stop being so positional.
Instead of focusing on convincing others of the wonders of our emotions, I practiced Double Clicking. I simply started asking, "what do you mean?" Then I would Listen to Connect, which means I tuned out that judgmental voice in my head as I sought to deeply understand my conversational partner's experiences and perspective.
This simple shift in my conversations with clients and friends has led me to uncover 5 things that, "I'm so emotional" is code for. So the next time you catch yourself uttering those words, or hear them from someone else take a step back to get perspective on what's really going on so you can respond empathically instead of react with judgment.
1. I'm triggered by this
Something about this situation is triggering. It could be a word or phrase that was said or some other similarity to a past experience. Whatever the reason is, being triggered in the moment drastically shifts our neurochemistry and if we aren't skilled to self-regulate, will lead to a patterned threat response. Another way we talk about being triggered in Conversational Intelligence is to call it an Amygdala Hijack. The amygdala, sensing a threat to our safety, signals to the primitive brain to preserve and protect our self-interests. Sometimes, "I'm so emotional" is code for "I'm triggered by this."
2. I'm feeling controlled by my emotions
Anytime I'm out in public with my daughter and she starts crying I feel self-conscious. We live in a society that values controlling one's emotions. It is much more acceptable to stuff down our feelings than to emote. And since I'm trying to raise an emotionally intelligent child I have to move past my own insecurity in the moment in order to support her in understanding and managing these big feelings when they arise. Because we've been trained for years to suppress our emotions (especially the "bad" ones), when we emote uncontrollably we often feel shame. The truth is there's a little toddler inside all of us, and sometimes our emotions take control in a less than professional manner. Sometimes, "I'm so emotional" is code for, "I'm feeling controlled by my emotions."
3. This is something I really care about
We don't always care deeply every time we get "overly emotional" in a situation. When we are deeply invested in something, we tend to be more susceptible to being triggered. This was definitely the case when I was speaking with my daughter's teacher. As a parent, I care deeply about my child and am always conscious about ensuring her safety and welfare. It's why little things can upset me and cause me grave concern. Sometimes, "I'm so emotional" is code for "I really care about this."
4. This is not something I care about but I haven't taken the time to get adequate perspective
When we are triggered we become deeply positional. Winning at all costs becomes a top priority. We become so entrenched that we care more about being right than we care about resolving the actual problem. This is why it is so important to stop and investigate our feelings rather than reacting. We waste a lot of time and energy reacting strongly to things that, upon further investigation, we realize we don't really care about. We would be better served by stepping back and making a conscious choice to let go instead of digging in deep into a position or stance. Sometimes, "I'm so emotional" is code for "I don't really care, I just need to be right."
5. I haven't worked thru my feelings about this yet
My husband, always an astute guy, will hear me utter a sentence and ask, "what's wrong?" based on the tone of my voice. Unfortunately, most of us emote before we have the time to process, name and deconstruct our feelings. Sometimes, "I'm so emotional" is code for "I'm still figuring out how I feel about this."
As we learn how to self-regulate our neurochemistry and decipher our emotions it's important to show grace. This is hard work. It often involves a lot of reframing the meaning and value of emotions. It's also unrealistic to expect ourselves to be emotionless.
The next time you’re in a situation where the phrase “I’m just so emotional” comes up remember to take that as an opportunity to pause instead of brushing past it. Double click by asking “what do you mean you’re so emotional?” And listen to connect. This is a game changing practice, especially if you’re the one saying (or thinking) “I’m just so emotional!” Reflecting for yourself like that will deepen your self-awareness and empower you to rewrite a limiting pattern.