Real talk: Trying to decipher my emotional landscape sometimes feels like a full-time job. I’m at least a little bit tangry (that’s tired-angry) at all times, but other not-so-great feelings are constantly sliding into my mental DMs, too. Were they invited? No. Do I have to deal with them anyway? Yep. And according to Ellen Hendriksen, PhD, of the Savvy Psychologist podcast, one of the most accessible ways to carefully shepherd these negative emotions out of center stage in your brain is by categorizing them as either “hard” or “soft.”
According to a 2007 article published in the journal Personal Relationships, hard emotions include anger and aggravation, while the soft variety includes sadness, hurt, and other forms of vulnerability. As Dr. Hendriksen explains it in a recent episode of the podcast Relationship Advice, hard emotions often rush in to mask your soft emotions, which can be harder to sit with. “It’s uncomfortable to feel that softer emotion,” she says. “No one likes to feel ashamed, no one likes to feel hurt. So we get mad because that feels better.”
But learning to dig through that hard emotion to discover its soft core may be key to vanquishing the bad vibes at their source. A look at three studies of how participants expressed these type of capital-F Feelings during interpersonal conflict (published in the aforementioned journal) found that those who reported experiencing hard emotions tended to have more negative forms of communication. On the other hand, people who tapped into soft emotions instead experienced more agreeable conversations. Just sayin’, but that’s even more proof that vulnerability is a super power.
Dr. Hendriksen supports this get-to-the-root-of-the-problem strategy. “If we distract ourselves by feeling angry, we never actually get to the actual emotion which is the hurt,” she says. “And so, I would say to dig for that softer emotion and try to listen to it.”
If difficult emotions keep tapping on your shoulder during your meditation practice, here’s how to breath through it. And how to use rose quartz to bring a little equilibrium back to your inner-life.
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