How Experiences and Emotions Surprise Us

Updated: Dec 22, 2021




Over the many years of working clinically, you come to hear some of the same thoughts repeated by different people, in different situations. It shows how we are all so very similar.


A while ago I started noticing that these tend to occur in batches. You know, like it seems everyone you know is getting married and other times it seems everybody is having a baby. Well, this is how it works with our thoughts. Some weeks at literally have a thought the week where add keep a tally of how many times people had said it in the same in sessions.


Lots of the time we can predict how we might feel about something and therefore what our thoughts likely to be. If you are going out for a meal, for example, with friends, you might have the thought ‘I'm looking forward to an evening out without the children’. You may predict that you'd feel happy and relaxed. But when things don't go to plan than that’s when we may feel strong emotions. If the sitter doesn't turn up, the children don't settle, the meal isn't great, or the other half gets too drunk. Whatever the reason, our thoughts about the event change. They might change to ‘Well, that didn't go as planned’. And then we would feel disappointed.


Usually when our expectations aren’t met, we experience a negative emotion. There is a tendency to have our emotions all over the place. But not always.


The thought of the week last week was said by quite a few different people. Someone who said it, drove into the city centre by herself for the first time since a serious car accident. Someone else went to a shop to complain. They were scared of conflict. Another person pushed their child on a swing at the park. They didn't anti-bac their hands afterwards for 30 minutes. All these people had the same thought. They all said, ‘It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be’.


I wonder if you have had that thought before? I bet you have. I think we've all had it at some point. This meant that they felt relief, happiness, pride. But also, surprise. Because we thought it was going to be one way and it turned out a different way. You see if we are experiencing good emotions has benefits and can strengthen our immunity specially in these pandemic time.


I wonder if you felt this way this week when your children went back to school or when they started school for the first time. What were your thoughts? Was it as bad as you thought it was gonna be?


When it goes as we expect we hope to feel happiness and relief and then we generally do. When it goes better than expected we feel happiness and relief. And a certain amount of pride. But when it goes worse than expected? We don't feel the happiness. We might feel relief that it’s over. But most people in this situation, tend to be surprised. Surprise can be pleasant or unpleasant.


Worriers tend not like surprises and that's why they put so much effort into planning and control as possible. If you want to reduce surprise though, without so much effort in planning and control, the best way I've found is to actually get to know yourself better.


If you know yourself and know what your emotional reactions are going to be. You're less likely to be surprised. By doing this, you feel more in control of yourself, your responses, and you reduce the possibility of disappointment when things don't go to plan because. You will know in advance. You will know what you need to do? And you will know the likely outcome beforehand.


How do we do this? How do we get to know ourselves better? The way to start is to get curious. Start taking note of your thoughts. See how your thoughts relate to your emotions.


Perhaps consider meditating. Meditation can help us to see our thoughts, physical sensations and our emotions so we can see the connections between them more clearly. I've written a blog about starting to meditate that you could refer to if you would like. Here is the link.


Journaling can help to identify pattens of thoughts and emotions too.


Or perhaps try a movement-based meditation practice (Tai Chi, Qi Gong etc) as a way to get to know yourself better. To get to know your emotions better. To learn where they are felt in the body. And have those start to guide you.


By knowing ourselves we are less likely to be surprised by the emotions we experience whether those experiences go to plan, or not.


It also helps us to understand more about how anxiety works as this has a strong relationship on how our emotions can shift.


And by knowing more how anxiety and worry differs from one another we can use coping skills to help manage both.


If you would like to know more about our emotions, and how to become more emotionally intelligent, how it helps us as mums and how it can help our children as they develop, then come join us in the Good Enough Mum Facebook group.

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