We live in a culture which focuses on the importance of feeling good, being happy, having confidence, being strong. Society values positive emotion while teaching us to strive against feelings of fear, anger, worry, loneliness, or inadequacy. Our culture dictates that if we do experience these darker emotions we need to resist, to stop them, to medicate them, to strive against them. However, emotions can be important indicators of the need to pay attention. Emotions can be clues to whether our needs are being met, clues to who we are and doors to self-understanding.
Our attempts to block our negative emotions, to always to be happy, to not feel pain are leading us to a place of emotional disability. We see many people unable to cope with negative emotions actually become “stuck” in anxiety, depression, and negativity. Many people have become emotionally “unwell.” We have compromised our humanness by denying what makes us human… emotions of all kinds are what makes life full.
How do we find emotional wellness? We must be willing to explore our emotions in an honest and curious way. We must ask whether our emotions are healthy or unhealthy? adaptive or maladaptive? are they a communication about our “self?” or a clue to an unmet need? We need to pay attention to the thoughts which are connected to our emotions and explore the meaning, truth or lack of truth behind them. We need to experience and investigate our emotions in a curious and nonjudgmental way, rather than simply find ways out of sadness or fear.
What to do?
Try to sit with an emotion…let it be there as part of you, really feel what “**” feels like. Try to keep your thoughts on the emotion, and not on a story which may create the emotion. Try not to attach a story to the emotion. Sit without judgement, be curious, wonder what the emotion is telling you. Is there a need that is calling to be met? Are there thoughts that are unhealthy which get in the way of the emotion? Rather than feeding the emotion with unhelpful thoughts or energy, find ways to be calm. Be kind to yourself.