We live in a society that moves at such a fast pace, anything that slows us down is regarded as an inconvenience.
Do you ever feel like there is no time, space, or understanding for your full emotions to be fully expressed?
The accepted narrative today looks something like this: “Something disrupting your ability to go, go, go? We have a pill for that!”
With millions of Americans currently being prescribed antidepressants and antianxiety medication, I am here to speak up about the farce we’ve been sold.
What happens when you experience a wave of uncomfortable emotions? Do you immediately demonize it, trying desperately to escape the feeling? Do you reach for [insert distraction here] to numb out the pain of the feeling? Do you become overwhelmed, thinking, I need to stop feeling this way, which propels a cycle of self-shame?
If any of these describes you, I want you to know that there is nothing wrong with you.
It’s not your fault. We were taught that our dynamic, unique expression is a problem. We were taught there is no time to address our feelings. We’ve got to pop that Advil, numb the pain, and get back to work!
But the burning question remains: what are we missing when we bypass our emotional experience?
I started pondering the purpose of emotions after my mom died suddenly and unexpectedly when I was 22 years old. Losing my only living parent was a deeply painful and isolating period in my life. I remember that for the first few weeks, my community was understanding—I received lots of kind messages, and employers would say, “Don’t even try coming into work today, take the week off.”
After about two to three weeks, when the memorial Facebook posts began to fade away, I noticed that all of a sudden (for my community) it was expected that I would be able to show up, bright and perky as ever!
While the social media posts were dwindling, the pain in my heart was just as encompassing as it was on the day she died. I couldn’t believe the speed at which society expected me to “recover.” I remember vividly having a huge emotional breakdown about six months after my mom died, only to be asked by an acquaintance, “You’re still sad about that?”
And this is when I began my deep dive into understanding the validity, purpose, and dynamic nature of my emotions.
Today I understand that healing is non-linear, and that healing never ends.
I wholeheartedly believe that my emotions are the gatekeepers to deeper understanding, innate wisdom, and profound realizations. When I allow myself to feel the depths of my emotional experience, I eventually receive a message. A lesson. A new perspective.
If I take a substance to avoid the experience of feeling my emotions, I miss out on the enlightening wisdom my emotions want to share with me.
Let’s talk about being depressed, for a moment. You feel depressed, and you go to a doctor, and they give you a pill. This pill helps to numb your receptivity to feelings. Therefore, you don’t feel the depths of your pain as much.
You also can’t experience the depths of your joy as much.
But here’s the thing: if you’re depressed, is there a legitimate reason for feeling that way? I invite anyone who has labeled themselves depressed to observe their life in the following way:
Do I have reason in my life to feel depressed?
How are my relationships?
What is the state of my health?
Do I feel financially secure, or insecure?
Do I love my job? Does my job suck my soul?
Do I feel safe in my home and in my life?
Do I have dreams, goals, or a vision that I’m working toward?
Are my family dynamics nurturing, loving, and connected?
Am I living in the present moment, or am I stuck in the pain of my past or worry about the future?
Have I stepped into my personal power or do I still view myself as a victim of life’s treachery?
Oftentimes, I am working with someone who has been diagnosed as “clinically depressed.” When we look at the reality of their life, we find (for example) that they are unhappy with their job, struggling in their relationships, and feeling insecure in themselves.
So then I wonder: are you “clinically depressed” or are you feeling depressed as a result of the nature of your reality?
Why is it a clinical disease to be unhappy with a life that is not designed for my greatest joy? Of course you feel depressed when you’re living a life that doesn’t nourish your soul.
And then, you may deepen the feeling of depression further when you shame, blame, and guilt yourself for not being farther along in your life than you currently are.
If we allow ourselves to feel the bottomless depths of our depression and the emotions that come with it, we would receive the feedback about the current state of our life and how we can change it. But when we numb out the pain instead of feeling the depths of our feelings, we miss the message entirely, and instead sit there wondering, “Why am I depressed?”
In my life today, when I have a strong emotion come up, I take many deep, relieving breaths. I notice myself wanting to escape the discomfort (by smoking weed, scrolling through Instagram, or distracting myself with work) and instead choose to stick with it. By “it,” I mean stick with whatever feelings come up inside me.
Sometimes, I cry. Sometimes, I scream. Sometimes, I stomp my feet on the ground and throw a tantrum. Sometimes, I collapse.
The inevitable truth is that if I stick with the experience of my emotions, eventually the intensity subsides. The discomfort lessens. It is like finding a sunny exit to a dark and damp cave I’ve been trudging through for many weeks.
And from this place, I start to receive massive downloads. Wisdom. Helpful information about myself, my life, and my experience.
Experiencing emotions is a blessing. Even when it hurts.
May we allow our emotions to be a loving guide in our lives, rather than an inconvenient burden.
So, the question is: how do I not allow my emotions to control my life? The simple answer is by embracing them instead of fighting them. If you feel overwhelmed, scared, or out of control with your emotions, please reach out to someone who can offer meaningful support.