I have spoken twice about emotional leakage, and in context, I have used it to explain when the parts of yourself that need improvement, or that you are working on, still manage to show themselves in your reflex responses to situations, without your conscious permission.
It’s not often a negative thing, however, in cases where you need release. Except for the fact that there are healthier ways of expressing emotion and dealing with what you’re feeling – mindful, conscious ways that don’t cripple you emotionally.
The simple definition I have gotten from all the written evidence on the subject is: expressing emotional distress in any way, like me with the person I sent the messages to weeks ago.
(Some detail: The pop psychology term ‘emotional leaking,’ which I have explained above, comes out of the actual scientific study of physical leakage of emotions called ‘micro expressions’ by emotions researcher, Paul Ekman, itself drawing from the original research on facial expressions by Charles Darwin. His research is about non-verbal communication that often contradicts or explains what words actually mean. Emotional Leakage as a term of interest arose from that research and in its pop version now includes all kinds of unplanned emotional expression.)
Leaking can be private or public. And the response is mindfulness.
In this case, the mindfulness practice is to always check with yourself emotionally, when you feel something has affected you in that way.
- What is the thing that makes me feel off?
- How exactly does it make me feel?
- Why is it making me feel this way (or, what are the thoughts that are making it feel this way)?
- What can I do about this situation to ensure it is fully engaged and handled, i.e. in a healthy way?
(For a useful, practical resource on how to healthily engage your emotions, I recommend Bryon Katie’s The Work. Her book, Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life goes deep on it.)
But note, like I said, that it’s not a negative thing per se. But there are better ways to handle your emotions rather than being shocked by their expression. For instance, letting the tears come fully when you are sad about something, rather than letting them burst out, complete with expletives when you are in a confrontation with your colleague.
And if you ever do ‘leak,’ refer to how I handled the situation myself. There is absolutely no need, and no use, for shame. Acknowledge your humanity, check in with yourself fully and honestly, and recommit to getting better every day – through the actions you choose and take.
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