When you look up lists of feelings, they are often categorized as good vs. bad. This gives us the impression that some feelings are wanted, encouraged, and welcomed, whereas others are unwanted, discouraged, and, therefore, need to be avoided, shut off, and/or disregarded. From an emotional health and intelligence perspective, this sets up a problem.
The problem being that all feelings provide information. For example, being angry after someone says something to you provides you information that you have been hurt, violated, betrayed, and/or let down in some way. This is important to consider with regards to this relationship as you may decide to set some boundaries or even move away from that relationship altogether. If we avoid this feeling state by labeling it ‘bad,’ than what happens to that information? You can start to see the problem that I am getting at here.
A lack of regard for the information provided by feelings can leave people living in ways that are inauthentic, uncomfortable, and unhealthy for them, not to mention unrealistic. Pretending that our reality is all happy, joyful, and roses and rainbows like social media would like us to believe perpetuates very unhelpful notions of mental health.
Real life involves discomfort and pain. Lessons and teachings come from this pain and propels us to do different. Ignoring or minimizing this in the moment robs us of opportunities to do and be different, which is essential for personal development and growth.
Whenever I have conversations with people about this idea of looking at feelings for what they are, just feelings and not good or bad, it is an awakening for them that shifts their health plan in a different direction. They find they are able to better meet themselves where they are at, develop different boundaries, and create a life that is comfortable for them because they are listening to all of the information being provided.
This does not mean that you need to drown in feelings, this is where the unhealthy part of our brains can start to interfere with healthy processes. Taking time each day to ask yourself how you are feeling, reflect, process through writing or talking, and then being mindful and coming back to the present is the recommended way to find a balance of acknowledging your feelings in all of their glory without being subsumed by them. If you find that your brain is interfering in this process, perhaps some additional professional support is necessary. Remember that even when it comes to mental health and addiction issues, it is not the feelings that are the problem, it is ignoring them that is. I hope all of you reading will take time to appreciate the value of your feelings and the information they are providing to you.
Paige Abbott is a Registered Psychologist in private practice at Sana Psychological in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. She specializes in treating addiction issues of all kinds and helping get people unstuck from problematic relationships, behaviours, and more. Kindly e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more and/or to request an appointment.