Managing Overwhelming Emotions

Emotions can surge like a tidal wave, and thoughts can persist like a tenacious echo. Each on its own is potent enough to engender a sense of loss of control that can be truly terrifying.

The Perfect Storm of Thoughts and Emotions

Sometimes, however, we experience the perfect storm: a powerful convergence of overwhelming emotions and insistent thoughts that can consume us completely.

Often, there’s a legitimate reason for these intense emotions and thoughts. Yet, understanding their origin isn’t enough to simply switch them off. In most cases, we must navigate through them to reach the other side.

The AA Approach to Emotional Turmoil

Members of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) have honed the ability to identify these thoughts and emotions for what they are when they surface. Frequently, an AA member will acknowledge, “wow, I am feeling overwhelmed right now,” instead of reacting impulsively to the emotion. This recognition often comes with the understanding that “this too shall pass.”

In the past, the perception was that the current emotional state would persist indefinitely. However, what AA members have learned is that feelings fluctuate in intensity and quality over time.

Moving Beyond Thoughts

AA members also recognize that merely thinking about the situation isn’t enough – action is key. When overwhelmed, reaching out to talk to someone else about their experiences can help the individual step outside their situation. This is also an ideal time for physical activities like taking a walk, tidying up the house, or starting that long-postponed project.

Surprisingly, as time passes, AA members often forget what had triggered their emotional upheaval. They discover that indeed, “this too DID pass!”


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