A contradicting emotion is a mood, feeling, or state of mind that is opposed to or inconsistent with another feeling we are experiencing.
What contradicting emotions are communicating to us
In my interview with Pastor Jim Ladd in episode 10 of Unyielding, he gave some great examples of contradicting emotions parents with a child in crisis experience. He said that parents might experience disappointment over this happening WHILE also experiencing anger about what our child brought into our family and how it impacts us. He also gave the example of experiencing shame/embarrassment AND deep empathy for our children as we watch them go through the challenges they face. There are times when we know it’s essential that they understand the consequences of their actions, AND we are also deeply concerned about how those consequences will impact their life.
Having a child in crisis often feels like an internal game of pinball. One flick of the flipper leads to an internal bouncing from one emotion to the next.
Contradicting emotions communicate that this process of coping and healing is complex. These emotions often present themselves as arrows pointing to where we need healing. ➡️➡️➡️💔
Honoring Contradicting Emotions
While your child is in crisis, a lot of focus and attention will be on them. The focus is on their actions, consequences, and ability to overcome these challenges. Your attention and focus will also naturally shift to them. You’ll believe that once they are better, you will be better. Our emotions are visitors reminding us that something within ourselves also needs attention and focus.
We honor these emotions when we begin to acknowledge that they exist. They are not right or wrong, good or bad. They simply are.
When they show up, we hold space for them and listen to what they are trying to communicate. Because our emotions are not always rational or constructive, we don’t need to act upon them. We simply allow them to be what they are without guilt or condemnation and release them when we are ready to move forward.
Contradicting emotions are not sustainable. They float in and float out. Instead of tying them to our story, our job is to view them objectively. When these feelings crop up for me, I have found it helpful to view each of the emotions I am experiencing through a process involving these four steps. Acknowledge, Examine, Normalize. Release.
Acknowledge the feeling is present (I feel so angry with them right now)
Examine what the feeling is communicating to you (Why do I feel angry? What is at the root of this anger?) Stay curious!
Normalize the feeling(s) (It’s understandable that I would feel angry because this situation impacts our lives, and we did not ask for it.)
Release the feeling(s) (This feeling is part of the process. I won’t always feel this way. I choose to release it and move forward)
Sometimes you can go through this process once and feel better. Other times you may have to do it several times in one day. There’s no perfect formula. It’s just a tool to help you honor the feeling and begin moving forward.
As you may already know, I’m a huge proponent of journaling. According to an article on PositivePsychology.com, “Journaling can be effective for many different reasons and help you reach a wide range of goals. It can help you clear your head, make important connections between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and even buffer or reduce the effects of mental illness”.
If you don’t already have a journal*, grab a spiral notebook or even the notes app on your phone and use these four words as a prompt for journaling the next time you are struggling with contradicting emotions.
*For more journaling prompts visit our Resource page