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Are you using all your data?

This week I have been a little grumpy. There was a time when I would have labelled this a ‘bad’ emotion that I shouldn’t be feeling. If I had been unable to change the feeling it would have fed into my negative self-talk about being a ‘bad person’. Of course, I wasn’t a bad person for being grumpy, I was just hot and my grumpiness was just a sign of that discomfort. The important things was how I choose to respond to my grumpiness. As it was, I was a bit snappy before I released what was going on and then I had a cool shower and a nap which seemed to do the trick.

How often do we label our emotions or thoughts as either positive or negative? How often do we see those labelled as bad or as a sign that there is something wrong with us? Thinking like this can cause us to try and avoid those emotions and thoughts we see as ‘negative’, but in doing this, we lose access to the information they contain. Sometimes it is easy to understand the message that goes along with the feeling and what we need to do about it. But sometimes we can struggle to notice and name our emotions and thoughts, especially if we have spent a long time avoiding those that bring us discomfort.

I often talk to my clients about thoughts and emotions just being data, it doesn’t come with a specific value, it is just information. Sometimes this means our sessions are ways of decoding the data and figuring out what it means to us. We are all a variable in our own data collection, and it can take time to understand what we are thinking and feeling and what is driving it. This isn’t always a comfortable process and may mean exploring difficult thoughts and feelings, which is why it can be useful to look at in therapy, where there is someone to help you sort through what your find. Once we understand what the data is telling us we can start to make choices about what we want to do in a way that is much more effective than if we base our decision on incomplete information.

White text on a teal background reads ‘The initial 'data' is within me, the challenge is to discover [...] its nature. In the process I am not only lifting out the essential meaning of an experience, but I am actively awakening and transforming myself. Moustakas‘

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