I enjoy 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 as something I’ve managed to or at least attempted to implement into my own life.
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 actually don’t believe there is such a 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 that we need to put our energy and attention towards.
As humans, we pride ourselves on being superior to other animals – because we have the capacity to rationalize and reason through things. But sometimes that ability can be a hindrance. Animals in the wild deal with traumas all the time. They come into contact with their predators, 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 heavy emotions. In this process of avoidance, we can actually make it worse and the emotions begin to control us, rather than the other way around.
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 said 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, physically ill, 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. Joy, hope and peace are some of our most vulnerable emotions – because we know they’re not going to last. They carry a much lighter energy and seem to just fly away quickly. Because we are so often in the future in our minds, and recognize that they won’t stick around, we sometimes fear these emotions as much as those that are heavy and sticky, like sadness, grief or shame. But they’re ALL our energy (E-motion = Energy in motion) and as such, are interconnected with each other, so when we shut down one emotion, we can’t help but shut down all of them.
When we can freely allow ourselves to feel the “sucky” ones as they arise, the lighter ones are so much better when they come around! And there’s a lesson in all of them. They are our best teachers!
We can’t heal what we can’t feel.