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January 19, 2022

Emotions get a Bad Rap: Here’s why they’re Not the Enemy.

 

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How many times have you been told that you’re too emotional?

“You’re overreacting.”

 “You’re just depressed.”

 “You must be bipolar.” 

These statements are usually followed by a directive to fix ourselves and the pesky emotions that are getting in the way of us being a perfectly happy, content human being who isn’t causing a problem for anyone else.

I see it all the time in my clinical practice. A client comes to me for therapy and reports that her husband said she needs to “fix her depression.” Another says that he was told he has “an anger problem” and needs to do something about it. Someone else wants help making her anxiety “go away.”

Uncomfortable emotions have become enemies—a problem to fix as quickly as possible.

“Just make the ‘bad’ feeling go away so I can feel ‘good’ again.”

Somewhere along the line, we started pathologizing emotions instead of appreciating them for what they really are.

And we’ll do just about anything to make (perceived) negative emotions go away:

>> Alcohol.

>> Drugs.

>> Prescription medication.

>> Retail therapy.

These methods of emotional relief aren’t necessarily bad, but they all assume that uncomfortable feelings are a problem that need to be fixed.

The truth is that emotions are messengers. Our emotions alert us to the aspects of our lives or ourselves that need attention. They communicate to us when recalibration is in order.

When our lives are filled with too much work and not enough play, feelings of depression or anxiety surface to let us know something’s off.

When we experience major changes in our lives, such as the loss of a job or the birth of a baby, complicated emotions signal to us that we have deep inner work to do in order to adjust to our new roles.

Emotional distress isn’t the problem itself—it’s merely the symptom of the problem.

Emotions are like fire alarms that signal the presence of smoke—they let us know something in our lives needs immediate attention. And when our internal, emotional alarm rings, we have a choice.

We can feel annoyed by the alarm, shut it off as quickly as possible (with alcohol, medication, avoidance, or denial) and go on with our lives, hoping the alarm doesn’t go off again. Or we can appreciate the alarm informing us of a problem, investigate the situation, and take action to resolve the issue before our lives burn up in flames.

Instead of trying to fix our emotions, we can choose to nurture, heal, and improve ourselves and our lives. We can hold a deep appreciation for our feelings, knowing they exist to protect and serve us, not to cause problems for us.

We can pay close attention to our emotions and do the work to translate the messages they give us. And hopefully, we can express gratitude for the emotional superpowers we possess.

Our emotions, both good and bad, make us human. And why would anyone want to “fix” that?

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Nicole Iacovoni  |  Contribution: 2,935

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