The Emotion That's The Hardest To Control + How To Handle It, From A Psychologist
On any given day, we experience a range of emotions—some more out in the open than others. When it comes to deeply rooted and hidden emotions, though, they can simmer beneath the surface, obscured to even you.
And according to clinical psychologist Nicole Beurkens, Ph.D., CNS, there's one emotion bound to do this the most and subsequently impact your state of mind and the way you operate in your life.
Which emotion is the hardest to control?
When we asked Beurkens which emotion is the hardest control, she had a quick response: "Shame. Shame is a big one."
As she tells mindbodygreen, she's seen countless people in her work who are stuck for long periods of time in what she calls "shame spirals." Without even realizing it, she notes, people caught in shame spirals have identified with their shame, internalizing it and coloring their perception with it.
"I think shame is the hardest emotion for people to deal with because it's so deeply rooted. It's an insidious emotion because it involves so many things—it's not like fear or joy or embarrassment. Shame is rooted in so many aspects of how someone sees and feels about themselves, and other people, and how they perceive the things that have happened to them," Beurkens explains.
And not only that, but shame is as difficult to understand as it is to unpack. "To even realize that's what they're contending with, to name that, is tough for people," she says, adding, "It's really something that most people—in some way, shape, or form—are struggling or grappling with, whether they realize it or not."
What to do about it.
Unpacking shame begins with understanding your shame, otherwise known as your shadow. Shame is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as "a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior," and your shadow is essentially the parts of yourself that you reject.
As naturopathic doctor and nurse practitioner Erica Matluck, N.D., N.P., previously wrote for mindbodygreen, living from a mindset of shame leads to a fragmented identity, "one that makes us feel quite confident because we are defining ourselves by the things we are positively acknowledged for—but it's incomplete because we're excluding all of our insecurities."
So, healing from shame is an integration of those insecurities, or as Matluck puts it, "The only way to expand what is possible for yourself is to expand yourself in pursuit of wholeness, [which] requires you to welcome all the parts of yourself in hiding back so you can integrate them into your psyche."
Doing this is no easy task and involves a great deal of radical self-acceptance and mindfulness. But when you start to notice how shame might be steering the ship, you can identify your triggers and reinforce your sense of confidence with positive affirmations and self-talk.
Simply beginning to notice is the first step, and that alone is worth celebrating.
Without even realizing it, we can go about our days making decisions that are subconsciously driven by emotions—and shame is a big one to watch out for. None of us is immune to these subconscious patterns, but the good news is, all of us have the capacity to notice when shame is behind the wheel and decide to change our minds.
Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Editor, a registered yoga instructor, and an avid astrologer and tarot reader. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from State University of New York at Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.