July 23, 2021

How we’re Handling our Bitter Emotions in all the Wrong Ways.


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“Pain in this life is not avoidable, but the pain we create avoiding pain is avoidable.” ~ R.D. Laing


What would life be without these emotions?

Dull, colorless, blank.

We wouldn’t know what matters to us if we didn’t feel anything. We wouldn’t have any aim, ambition, passion, desire, wish, or will, because there would be nothing within us that tells us the difference or the meaning of these words (and many other terms that we take for granted in our everyday lives).

We all want to be happy, healthy, successful, and peaceful, yet we don’t want the pain of the hard work, setbacks, and disappointments that come with it.

We don’t want the anxiety, sadness, anguish, and hurt that accompany our wishes and wants—we only want the happy emotions.

And it’s not that we do it consciously. It’s just how we are programmed. I believe the human mind is essentially programmed for two basic purposes: maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain.

So we are either moving away from things we don’t like/want or moving toward things, people, situations, and activities we like or that interest us.

Our mind is always trying to help us feel safe, protected, and do our best. However, at times, the way it’s doing this (or even compelling us to do this) might not be helping us in the long run.

For instance, those of us who smoke or drink know on an intellectual level that smoking and drinking are harmful, but we do it anyway—only because they might take away our sadness, hurt, anger, stress, or anxiety. Then smoking or drinking eventually becomes a mechanism of avoidance.

And what are we avoiding? Our own feelings that make us uncomfortable.

Here’s where we go wrong.

We think that these uncomfortable feelings are meant to be avoided or should be avoided. We often end up dismissing, minimizing, and ignoring our feelings by telling ourselves, “Don’t cry. It’s a waste of time.” “Don’t get angry.” “I shouldn’t feel anxious.”

All these statements might eventually drive us toward one fundamental state, which is moving or running away.

And what happens when we keep running? We become exhausted.

We treat our feelings as if they are a wild street dog who needs to be kept at a distance or run away from. No. What we need to understand is that there are no good and bad emotions. There are just emotions.

All of them, including the ones that make us uncomfortable, are linked to specific purposes. We communicate with ourselves and to others through our feelings.

In reality, all feelings are okay. It is okay to feel what we feel.

So when we are gripped by our own anger, sadness, or pain, instead of running away and doing something that only gives us a pseudo safety, what if we sit with our feelings? What if we let them come and go? What if we simply acknowledge, accept, validate, and normalize what we feel?

What if we just embrace our not-so-strong moments or the most vulnerable ones like little babies who need to be held with love and kindness?

What if we find a way to tell ourselves, “Hey, it’s okay to feel sad. I’m human after all?”

Why struggle and fight with something that gives meaning to our existence? Why not just drop it?

It’s ironic that we are willing to spend an eternity running after other people to let them validate our emotions. Yet, we are ever so unwilling to do that for our own selves.

Emotions are not complicated. We complicate them by blocking their flow and engaging in actions that aggravate our discomfort over a long period of time.

Emotions are like water—they simply need to flow. Just like the ocean, there are emotional tides within us as well. When we catch ourselves in the midst of an emotional storm, we need to anchor ourselves. Let the tide come and go.

We need to be patient. We need to allow ourselves to be vulnerable with grace and awareness. We need to hold ourselves kindly while braving our own storm.

Alcohol won’t make the family conflict go away.

Smoking won’t solve the issues at work.

Eating won’t change the way we look at ourselves.

Yes, they numb the pain for some time—only to create a different kind of pain later. 

When we come back to the real world, everything will be exactly where we have left it: unresolved and unattended.

So maybe, if we allow ourselves to acknowledge and accept what we feel at each and every moment—especially during our vulnerable times—we may be able to become friends with our emotions.

If we let our feelings come and go in their own time, if we drop the struggle and the need to run away all the time, we will slowly be able to listen and validate our own selves.

We would be able to engage in actions that are truly more aligned with our values.

Eventually, we would be able to move toward the people, situations, and things we want.

If we can spend the majority of our time running away from something, then I think we can also utilize that time and energy in moving toward something else.

Can’t we?

“Emotional pain cannot kill you, but running from it can. Allow. Embrace. Let yourself feel. Let yourself heal.” ~ Vironika Tugaleva


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