Life can be hard. A full and meaningful life is filled with both happiness and also pain. In our lifetime, we all will experience a good dose of disappointment, embarrassment, anxiety, rejection, grief and the like. These painful feelings are a normal part of the human experience. Just as we attempt to quickly rid ourselves of physical pain that comes our way; it is a common reaction to try and quickly devoid ourselves of any emotional pain that arises. We distract ourselves through internet surfing, working, shopping, overeating, trying to be ‘positive’, or endlessly busying ourselves. These ways of coping have their place and are okay to an extent. However, there also needs to be room for acknowledging and feeling our feelings. Often the more we avoid or fight certain ‘unacceptable’ emotions the stronger or more overwhelming they become. Unresolved feelings often come out one way or another: lashing out, increased feelings of anxiety or depression, or self-destructive behaviors etc.
Our feelings provide us with important clues about action we need to take: they may let us know about a problem that needs to be addressed; that we need sleep; we need to slow down; or that we need to be kinder to ourselves. Acknowledging and expressing our feelings and/or inner thoughts (to someone supportive, or through journaling, or through art etc.) in and of itself can be extremely cathartic and can make the feelings less big or scary. There are no ‘bad’ feelings and there are no ‘bad’ thoughts. Passing critical judgement on feelings or thoughts just makes things more difficult. Make space for your feelings. Sitting in sadness for a few minutes won’t devour you. In fact, in the long run it will likely free up some of your mental energy, enabling you to be more present and enjoy the moment- as you will be not burning energy pushing away unwanted experiences.
By Nina Cason, LCSW
Psychotherapist, Hirt Psychology