Emotions. Processing them has always been a difficult undertaking for me.
I am someone who has been described often as overly emotional or personal. I remember attending a seminar about emotional intelligence with my colleagues where everyone’s eyes were on me as if to say, Erika, you need this training the most. Awkward moment.
It’s been a few years, and I feel I’ve made quite the improvement in understanding my emotions. How? I got used to comparing my emotions to human beings.
I’m not a psychologist, but after searching for information online, I found the term personifying emotions, or giving emotions human characteristics. It’s not a new thing; there’s even a cute animated movie, “Inside Out,” which personifies the five basic emotions of Riley, the movie’s main character. In the movie, emotions like Joy, Anger, Sadness, Fear, and Disgust have cartoon bodies with unique colors and their own behaviors that affect Riley directly in her outward life.
I started using this practise when I began exploring my loneliness. I had been in an intense relationship with this emotion for a long time—I loved and I hated it all at the same time. So, I started to compare it to a lover. Just like a real, romantic relationship, Loneliness and I had ups and downs—intimate, beautiful moments and fights.
When the personification of loneliness proved to help me better understand my relationship with that emotion, I started to explore dealing with other emotions in the same way.
I got really playful and creative with my emotions. I even created background stories for each of them, assigned them professions, and created relationships between them. For example, Anger is a soldier—someone with great passion. But Anger’s passion can be as destructive as war itself, and can blow up entire battlefields with its grenades. You don‘t want war inside you. You want Joy.
Joy, for me, is a hippie, a free soul, a dancer. I envisioned Sorrow as a poet, mostly because when I feel sad, I love to write poems. So, Sorrow is a poet, a warm character that you want to listen to. I also created Hope. Hope is a kinda important character, childish and naive. I want her to stay, I want to cuddle her.
And how about relationships between these new beings? Is my Anger a friend with Sorrow? Yes, sometimes they show up together, hand-in-hand. Joy and Sorrow? They seem like opposites, but somehow they just click. They have chemistry and can‘t live without one another.
You see, it is a playful way of dealing with emotions. I can go on and on, comparing and analyzing continuously.
When I create “living” emotions, it is easier for me place boundaries with them and decide how I want to interact with them. Can it work for you? Go ahead and try it. Be playful and make friends with the emotions that are inside of you.
One way to play with your emotions is to write a poem about them. Below is one of mine. May it be of benefit.
When it gets really lonely,
it’s my emotions that I invite to the house party.
The first one to come is always
Old man Sorrow.
He has a fox-shaped soul
and is a yeller.
Once he was a fisherman,
now he’s just a dreamer.
I hurry to make him a gin and tonic.
Old Man Sorrow has so many stories,
but can put them only in poems.
At night he dreams
of disappearing in a rhyme.
The second arrival is my lovely Joy.
She loves Sorrow’s poems,
and is a hippie, flower child.
She looks a bit like Holly Golightly,
states she is free,
and belongs to no one.
Still, time to time, she gazes at the stars,
and wishes for a lover.
I kiss my lovely Joy on a cheek;
she is my dancer,
my cha-cha-cha, my tango.
When Ms. Hope arrives,
I don’t even know.
She just sits in a corner,
always singing the same song.
She is a shy one,
naive like a child,
Her red cheeks and blue eyes
staring high at the skies.
I cuddle her like a doll,
brush her hair, and sing lullabies.
Without invite comes Mr. Anger.
He breaks down my door,
with his one, forceful leg;
The other one, he lost at war.
Once he was soldier.
He left the battlefields long ago,
but still has bloody nightmares.
He treats everyone like shit,
hits on Hope, and dreams about
one night in her arms.
Mr. Anger and Sorrow like to drink. A lot.
And so past midnight, my home looks like
a crazy house—
fireworks from Mr. Anger’s pockets;
Joy’s flowers, scattered about, smell like a garden;
My little Hope smokes and creates us some
and Old Man Sorrow cries,
his tears transforming the house party into a pool party…
When it gets really lonely
it’s my emotions that I invite to my house party.