You are not a boiling kettle! Stop managing your emotions as if you are …

You are not a boiling kettle! Stop managing your emotions as if you are …

As many of you would well be aware, I spend most of my (professional) time speaking at conferences and events, and writing books and other content.

When I speak and write, I focus mostly on various applications of Positive Psychology, including themes such as happiness and wellbeing, and notably happiness at work and positive culture.

Within this, I frequently devote considerable effort to busting many of the common myths and misconceptions about happiness and positivity; because it’s these, more often than not, that get in the way of experiencing or achieving real happiness and life success.

And one of these myths, which I wanted to address today, is the idea that emotions can somehow be like boiling water building up pressure in a kettle and that if not “let out” in some way, will lead to some form of “bursting”! 

It’s almost as though the propagators of  this “theory” believe we humans are something like steam engines. But we’re not; not at all! And as a result, advocates of this theory suggest that expressing or letting out this steam, these emotions, is somehow healthy. But it’s not!

Now, before going on, let me be clear. I do advocate for appropriate and healthy expression of thoughts and emotions, either via reflection and reprocessing of some kind, expressive writing, or assertive communication. In fact, I’ll come back to this in another post. But that’s quite different to prescribing unbridled expression of, particularly, potentially dangerous emotions such as anger and hostility.

For example, one school of thought within this approach recommends yelling and screaming and even punching objects such as pillows when experiencing such emotions. But the problem with this is it’s not supported by research. And more so, the research indicates it almost certainly does more damage than good.

In short, if you practice hostility and aggression you just get better at being hostile and aggressive! Expressing these emotions in this way just makes you better at being violent! 

So please, let’s abandon this idea that emotions build up within us like steam in a kettle and need, somehow, to be let out. We’re not hydraulic machines, and managing our emotions shouldn’t be based on such a model. By all means, recognise and reflect upon your thoughts and feelings, acknowledge and accept them for what they are, analyse and interpret or reinterpret them in HEALTHY and HELPFUL ways, and then do what you need and can do to care for yourself AND for those around you.