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  • Randall Wilson, Psy.D.

Dealing with Emotional Weather

Have you ever noticed the similarities between weather and emotions? There's all kinds of different weather, pleasant and unpleasant, calm and beautiful or dark and stormy. All forms of weather are necessary and valid, they all serve and important function. It varies and happens in cycles, sometimes a few days in a row of crummy weather, sometimes a few weeks. You don't really get to control the weather, it just sort of shows up whenever and however it pleases. With all of these similarities, it seems the weather might have something important to teach us about how to deal with difficult emotions.

So what are some different ways we relate to weather? When the weather's bad, you might resent it, fight with it, resist it. You might take it personally and think of it as being aimed directly at you ("I can't believe this weather showed up today of all days!"). You might also take steps to hide from it. None of these options are ideal in the long-term. Fighting with the weather is of course going to get you nowhere, waste your energy, and cause a whole lot of unnecessary psychological suffering. It also doesn't work well to take it personally, because you didn't choose the weather to begin with, it just happened. And it might perfectly reasonable to hide from the weather, however the cost is that you miss out on opportunities that might have happened had you been willing to go out in it.

In a similar way, it doesn't work well to resent, fight with, or resist unpleasant emotions when they show up. Like the weather, if an emotion wants to be there, it's going to be there, and you're likely to burn yourself out trying to fight it off. On the surface, it makes sense to take your own emotions personally because, well, they're YOUR emotions. However, if we acknowledge that emotions are a natural process no different than the weather, and that you don't really get to choose when they show up, then it makes less sense to take emotions personally. You didn't wake up and decide "today I'm going to feel super depressed and anxious!," it just sort of happens. And while hiding from or avoiding your emotions might seem reasonable and is probably ok to do on some occasions, it's not a great long-term option. When you hide from / avoid your own emotions, you inevitably miss out on living and experiencing life fully. You end up missing out on important emotional connections, you don't learn anything from the emotion, and you likely miss out on meaningful events that could have happened if you had not been hiding from those emotions.

So what lessons can we take from the weather on how to deal with emotions? When unpleasant emotional weather shows up, try opening up to it, approaching it with a curious and open awareness, and spending some time with it while it's there. See if there's anything important to learn about it or from it. And if you're able to do that... if you can stay open to painful emotional weather, move with it instead of away from it, and receive whatever message it might be trying to send you, then you'll earn yourself the opportunity to live life more fully and consciously. You'll miss out on less important moments in your life. Thanks for reading!

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