How to Work Through Conflicting Emotions



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Currently I’m going through a personal issue where letting go of something old is saddening. It’s a major life change, one that sort of half-happened, half chosen. I know it’s the right thing to do, and that’s where the conflict comes in.

I’m sad to let go of what has been….but I’m looking forward to what could be. I’m looking forward to doing something different, starting a new phase in life so to speak. 

This sort of thing is not limited to major life changes. We go through this often in life. You want a new job, but don’t want to risk losing the security of the old one, same with relationships, or even something like moving home. 

When we are divided by these conflicting emotions, your brain and heart becomes a yo-yo. You go from a bout of misery to hours of excitement and planning. For those of you who are control-freaks like me, it’s even more difficult because we are not just dealing with our conflicted feelings, but we are also dealing with being overwhelmed by this complete lack of control. 

Thanks to years of journaling I understand exactly what I’m going through and why, yet understanding does not make much difference. Feelings are not ruled by understanding. Feelings are ruled by emotions. As much as the control-freak in me may wish otherwise, it’s a good thing that we can’t entirely control our emotions. That’s what makes us human. 

Journaling about it – whining when the misery takes over, and outlining future plan when excitement takes over – gives you a greater understanding of your emotions. It shows you that you are human, and that things are rarely black and white. It also avoids sucking you into guilt trip for feeling one way or the other. 

What do you think? 

Have you tried to use journaling to sort out your conflicting emotions? 




8 thoughts on “How to Work Through Conflicting Emotions

  1. I often feel conflicting emotions — strong ones — around decisions. And the strongest ones are around decisions were I’m pretty sure I’m going to feel lousy, no matter what I decide.

    I’ve found that it helps to lay out the decision — what the choice (or choices) are, while I’d feel good or bad about each choice, expected consequences, etc. I also pay close attention to where in my body I “feel” the feelings. It’s kind of surprising to me that I really do “carry” emotions in specific ways in specific parts of my body — anger as tightness in the back of the neck and shoulders, fatigue as heaviness behind the eyes, guilt as a “flutter” below the sternum, etc.

    By being aware of how the body is processing emotions, I find that the emotions around decisions become less strong and more manageable. I can’t tell if it’s improving the quality of my decision-making any, but I’m definitely feeling less “torn,” and that’s a good thing.

  2. I have definitely tried to use journaling to sort out my conflicting emotions. I tend to reread past entries to help me get a better perspective of the patterns of my emotions. I like to write continually when I am feeling conflicted until I feel I have reached a conclusion where I am no longer fighting myself as to which way to lean. Journaling helps so much.

  3. I love to journal as a way to think things through. Sometimes I let my Higher Self talk to me and I respond, kind of like a script. HS: “How do you feel about making this decision?” ME: “I feel conflicted and lost.” This is often a comforting format and I can get some real insight if I relax and trust it.

    Another technique I use is giving the conflicted selves a name or identity. I am dealing with a disappointed self, whom I have identified as being a broken-hearted idealist. I have given that self the name “Dr. Disappointment” and I will talk to him to find out where he comes from in my psyche and what he needs to feel heard and whole, why he is around so often, what I most need to know to understand him. “What do you want, Dr.? What can I do for you? Why do you keep raining on my parade?” This is a good way to find my own blindspots and it can be surprisingly funny, like a character in a book who just takes off.

    I had a picky perfectionist that I hated in my 30’s named Regina. After several years of working with her she became one of my strongest inner allies. Now, I am no longer a perfectionist but I do have a new goal of “Elegant Efficiency.” She morphed into a useful part of my inner committee instead of a back breaking inner critic.

    Last, but not least, there is the list. Draw a line down the middle of a notebook page and start writing down pros and cons. Or, why I want this and why I am afraid of it. Pick the one that scares you or hurts the most and write about it.

  4. I agree,
    To me,writing down my thoughts and feelings, is indispensable to helping understand alot of what I am going though at any given time…but especially if I’m going through a time of big emotional upset or conflict.
    We all know that when a person is upset it’s best not to keep things bottled up.

    So,it’s good then at the very least to convey thoughts on a page privately for your eyes only.
    There is no one to judge plus it’s very freeing.For me personally, I just have to get things out.
    Sometimes I may simply write phrases or affirmations that are empowering and othertimes more descriptive paragraphs..
    The extra nice part is at some later point down the road when I view what I had written I see far I have come.
    A pen,paper and your inner thoughts is all you need. I can almost guarantee writing thoughts out in time of need helps..

  5. Doug,

    That’s an excellent and very apt description. I find that the most “torn” feelings are usually before I make a decision, but to decide, one has to go through conflicting emotions.

  6. Introverted Musings,

    Yes, people often end up doing this in their head, going in circles, and feeling lousy about it. By journaling, you get those circling thoughts out on paper, in black and white, and I like to think that it cuts down at least some repetition, though not all.

  7. MB,

    The judgement-free part definitely helps. Part of feeling conflicting emotions is having some room to accept all emotions, even negative ones. We need room and time to process that, before we can move onto the decision stage.

  8. LauraG,

    Dialogue is a very efficient journaling technique. It works wonders. I do a similar thing as you mentioned, attributing conversation to two parties. It helps to have your conflicting sides talk to each other rather than making you a middle man.

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