This is a re-post from June 2010.
I’m fond of sharing my opinion on things like this with my clients. I call them the “Gospel According to Patti”. It’s a tongue-in-cheek way of stating my opinion – based primarily on my experience personally and with many clients over the years. It sometimes (but not necessarily always) is also based on some research or common knowledge among the behavioral health field or on something I’ve read that resonated with me. I don’t take credit for being original with any of these concepts. I do own them as beliefs and usually on implementing them into my own life. (Finally, and this is important – I am not trying to say I know more than anyone about these topics – again, just stating my opinion).
One of those GAP’s (Gospel According to Patti) has to do with how many of us tend to deal with our emotions.
Most of us are grateful for our 5 senses – sight, hearing, taste, touch and smell. They help us navigate the external world – to appreciate the beauty in front of us – and sometimes warn us of possible danger.
But when it comes to our emotions, especially the “negative ones”, we tend to avoid them. (I will go on record here to state that there is no such thing as a “negative emotion”. They are all just a part of being a human – a very essential part of us. As such, they are all functional in the same way. Not good or bad, they just are).
But the purpose of emotions is the same as our 5 senses. They help us navigate our internal world. Sometimes they emphasize the beauty of being alive, and sometimes they warn us that there’s something going on we need to put our energy and attention towards.
As humans, we pride ouselves on being superior to other animals – because we have the capacity to rationalize and reason through things. But sometimes it can be a hinderance. Animals in the wild deal with traumas all the time. They come into contact with their preditors, go into the appropriate state for their situation (flight, fright, freeze), and if they survive, they shake it off and move on. In other words, they faced it, dealt with it, and let it go.
But as humans, we attempt to protect ourselves and our loved ones from experiencing negative events and emotions. In this process of avoidance, we actually make it worse.
There are no detours. The only way to the other side of fear, sadness, shame, embarrassment, etc – is right through it. Face it, deal with it, and let it go.
Debbie Ford says that hiding a part of yourself is like trying to hold a volley ball under water. It’s impossible to do forever and it eventually comes to the surface.
I’ve seen big strong men turn into mush when they had to deal with emotions they had been trying to “hold under”. I’ve also seen many people become extremely depressed, angry, addicted, overweight, dysfunctional and even suicidal because they were holding a part of themselves at bay.
I believe we are supposed to feel all emotions. The “good” ones feel so much better when we’ve experienced the ones that make us feel more vulnerable. And there’s a lesson in all of them. They are our great teachers!