Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Emotions... Stop dismissing them

Emotions… Not only we psychotherapists, but also many people emphasize their importance. Yes, they are very important and they are actually one of the main focuses of psychotherapy. But why are they considered that important? Surprisingly, a good number of people, even therapists, have difficulty answering that question. Today, I would like to talk about emotions.

Actually, emotions are one of the most fundamental elements of human beings and human life. When we were born, all we had were “comfortable” or “uncomfortable,” “happy” or “unhappy,” or something like that. That was about it, right? And once we leave infancy behind, emotions become a more primary part of our lives, and an essential part of our brain that influences us a lot, even more than what we would wish for sometimes.

We also usually feel “alive” when we have emotions: Think about the many things you like to do, the pieces of art or entertainments you enjoy. Even roller coasters and horror movies! They invoke some kind of emotion in us, and that’s why we care about them. If we had to lead lives where we experienced no emotions, that would be a really dry and empty existence.

Yes, emotions are vital for our lives and a very important part of them. At the same time, however, emotions are considered problematic in many situations. A lot of people are afraid of expressing emotions or try to avoid them because they are so powerful that you cannot control them in a manner you wish. They can be overwhelming, heart-breaking, or something that drives you crazy, and so on.

Because of emotions, people feel “hurt,” “depressed,” “angry,” “lonely,” “anxious,” and much more, often leaving us feeling powerless. However, we cannot just “turn it off,” leaving us feeling embarrassed by them, or losing control because of them…    

The important thing about emotions to know is that there are no “right” or “wrong” emotions. We often think this is a good/bad emotion to have. For example, it is not uncommon to hear that “It is wrong to feel this way,” “This emotion is inappropriate,” “It is bad to feel angry/sad/jealous,” or “I should feel happy about such a thing.” It’s totally understandable, but there is actually no good or bad about our emotions.

When it comes to emotions, however, once they’re there, they’re there. That’s the nature of emotions, and you cannot do anything about it other than to just acknowledge and accept it. This is a fundamental truth. Once you feel a certain way about something, then nobody or nothing (including yourself!) can deny or remove those feelings. It is very common for people not to approve their feelings: “Oh, she is saying this for my benefit, so I should not feel angry about it,” “I should not feel sad because others will be disappointed,” “It is inappropriate if I feel jealous of him,” or “I have a good family, so I should not feel depressed.” But again, once it’s there, it is there. If you deny your feelings, that means you are denying yourself, your being, your existence, actually, and it will get back to you eventually.

Most of us are trained not to acknowledge, accept, or express our emotions as we get older. In order to cope with social requirements, we may sometimes regulate our emotional expressions or behaviors. However, this does not mean we cannot feel them or make some feelings to be wrong. This is really crucial and I hope all of you can embrace your own emotions, because they are precious!

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