Many of us were taught at a very young age that feeling and expressing our emotions is BAD – I know I most definitely was. We learned that feeling hurt or upset means you’re weak or that feeling angry means you’re crazy. We create those stories for ourselves so that we can completely dismiss the emotion itself and suppress it in deep in our mind.
Often times we avoid the feeling, masking it with drugs, alcohol, sex, and other destructive behaviors. Or we tend to focus on the wrong things about the feeling or situation, instead of working through them. But then it just becomes something that eats you away silently but surely.
The thing is… emotions are just a part of human nature. They are evolutionary tactics that are there to protect us and to help us survive in life.
Although emotions such as sadness or anger are not fun to feel, they have a lot of teaching values. They teach you HOW to be happy, which may sound contradictory, but having those negative emotions drives your mind to achieve happiness again.
However, this can ONLY be done when you are able to effectively work through them, not simply suppress them (because then they just keep coming back up over and over and you never really recover from it).
When you are able to see all of the value behind the emotions you feel, you are truly able to grow as a bad-ass person. This is why learning to feel is crucial:
Teaches you self-compassion
Think about the last time a friend came to you, venting about a problem that they are facing that makes them upset, sad, and angry. How did you respond? I’m sure it wasn’t by saying “oh just get over it” or dismissing their feelings by saying “don’t be upset/angry, it wasn’t a big deal.” No.
You addressed their pain and distress that they came to you for with COMPASSION. You listened with empathy and reassured them that everything is going to be okay. You might have even given some advice on how to approach the problem to try and resolve it.
Why can’t we come to ourselves with that same type of compassion? Of course it is really nice to have supportive friends and family to go to when shit goes sour, but from my experience, a lot of the time the feelings of reassurance and relief are only temporary. As soon as I get back inside my own head, I start to feel those negative, yucky feelings again.
That’s why you need to be the kind and compassionate friend to YOURSELF, so that when you are back in your head, you can continue to reassure and comfort yourself of those feelings.
Practicing self-compassion helps you grow by giving you more self-confidence. You are able to trust yourself and tell yourself that you ARE the bad-ass boss lady that cannot be messed with. It also gives you a sense of independence. You no longer feel the need to rely on others to make you feel better because you know how to make yourself feel better.
Frees you of guilt and shame
Guilt is so damn HEAVY. Like I cannot stress enough how much weight you carry holding onto guilt and shame.
My personal experience with holding onto guilt is actually devastating. In the past, whenever something bad would happen to me, I would feel such an overwhelming feeling of guilt that it completely clouded my life. I would obsessively think about the past, what I should have done instead. Like obsessively. It would affect me to the point where sometimes I couldn’t eat or sleep. But these emotional breakdowns I used to have stopped when I started to teach myself how to process my feelings.
The big problem that I had was dwelling on “what I should have done instead.” I became obsessed with the array of alternate situations that I COULD have done that would have made me avoid that whole sad/angry/upset emotion that I was feeling. So instead of being present in my emotions, I was obsessed with how I could have avoided it in the first place.
This goes back to how we taught ourselves the story that feeling negative emotions is bad. I told myself that feeling sad about what happened isn’t okay, and I should have avoided doing whatever I did to put me in that position to feel sad.
But thinking that way gets you nowhere and feeds into the guilt/shame you had about the situation. And feeling guilty about the situation gets you nowhere as well, and then feeds into just feeling like shit.
Processing your emotions allows you to practice mindfulness, and simply being present in the moment. What has happened has happened. Now you are sad or angry. And that is okay. You need to tell yourself that it is okay so that you don’t allow the feeling of guilt or shame overwhelm you. This is essential for growth because nothing stops you from growing more than being stuck in the past.
Helps you learn from your mistakes
This is the “survival” part of why we as humans developed having emotions in the first place. We are human. We are allowed to make mistakes. Honestly, if we did not make mistakes we would have no way of growing. Nobody is perfect and nobody should be.
When we suppress our emotions, whether it is by focusing on the guilt of it or by using unhealthy distractions (drugs, sex, alcohol), we avoid actually addressing the issue that caused it and we keep ourselves from figuring out what to do to get ourselves out of that funk and what to do to avoid the funk for next time. In other words, when you are sad or angry, start to reflect on yourself.
Ask yourself questions like these:
- What emotions am I feeling? (being able to label your emotion is a crucial first step in getting control over it)
- Why did what happen make me feel this way?
- What is the lesson that came from this situation?
- How can I get myself to feel good and happy again?
- What can I do to protect myself in the future?
This kind of self-reflection helps you grow as a person. It teaches you how to be stronger. It teaches you more about yourself and others. It teaches you how to deal with problems in a HEALTHY and more EFFECTIVE manner. It teaches you self-compassion. It teaches you mindfulness. It teaches you how to lighten that heavy load so that you have more room to become your best self.
How To Feel Your Feelings: Just FEEL
There’s no magic trick to it. Let yourself feel whatever you are feeling. Identify and label the feeling (sad, angry, upset, frustrated). Tell yourself (and drill it into your head) that it is okay to feel whatever you are feeling, and your feelings are ABSOLUTELY VALID. Let yourself cry it out if you need to. Take a mental health day or two – you are more than entitled to that. Vent to your family and friends. Allow yourself to JUST FEEL.
Then, when you are ready, do some self-reflection. Ask yourself those questions above. Write down your feelings and your reflection on them in a journal, or talk it out loud with a friend. Write a letter of compassion to yourself, as if you were talking to a friend.
THEN, when you are ready, focus on that question: “How can I get myself to feel good and happy again?” This is the self-care part of healing and recovering from this emotion. Think about what you can do to take care of yourself and DO IT.
We are human beings, not robots. That’s why having emotions is okay. It is okay to feel upset or sad or angry or frustrated. Honestly, if you didn’t feel like that from time to time, I’d be more concerned. Also, whatever you feel is valid and do not let anyone else tell you otherwise. Shut out those people and those feelings and allow yourself to feel, as that is the only way to heal and recover and then GROW into the bad-ass you are.
Sometimes, some feelings can be harder to deal with than others. And that’s why sometimes, it’s especially important that you do not let yourself deal with them alone. If you are feeling way too overwhelmed with your feelings, please do not hesitate to seek out professional help or advice.
Getting help is OKAY and it DOES NOT make you weak. If you don’t know where to start, reach out to me at email@example.com and I’ll be more than happy to help you through this and guide you to the right resources. You are not alone, and no one should have to deal with shit on their own.