Life is unpredictable and therefore can make our emotions unpredictable. With everything going on in today’s world, it can make us feel completely overwhelmed and like we’re drowning in our emotions, or it can make us feel completely numb to everything and avoidant of feelings. While it can be uncomfortable and unenjoyable to feel negative emotions, like sadness, anger, or frustration, avoiding those feelings does not make them go away. It actually can have the opposite effect; by avoiding certain emotions and putting those feelings and everything that comes with those feelings off to the side, it will only continue to get bigger and lead to unhealthy behaviors, until it eventually causes more issues and/or causes one minor inconvenience to be the “straw that broke the camel’s back.” Although this may not be the healthiest way to deal with emotions, it’s completely normal and probably has become a habit to avoid certain feelings, and now that it has become a habit, it’s something you do naturally and something that’s difficult to break; although, not impossible.
The first step is to identify your emotions and feelings, label them and figure out what the cause of that feeling is, if you are able to identify that. All of this is to be done without judgment. It’s important to allow yourself to have feelings without making yourself feel bad for them or judging yourself before even understanding where that feeling comes from. Once you figure out what that feeling is, sit with it and allow yourself time and space to let yourself feel that feeling without judgment and without negative thoughts, no matter how uncomfortable. Allow yourself to face that emotion so that it doesn’t continue to get put off to the side and ignored every time you feel it. Once you’ve allowed yourself to sit with those feelings for some time, figure out what you are going to do about them and how you are going to handle them. Figure out the best way to approach something if you have control over it, or if not, figure out the best way to cope with it moving forward. What works for others may not work for you, so figuring out your best approach to processing your emotions, whether that’s journaling, restructuring negative thought processes, identifying defense mechanisms to help stop those, make sure it’s helpful and providing positive progress for you.
Like any bad habit, the hardest part is starting the process to break that habit of avoiding feelings. It always seems easier, because no one likes feeling sad or feeling upset, but having those negative feelings is a natural part of life and something that cannot be avoided no matter how hard we try. Once you get those wheels in motion and start getting into the habit of processing your feelings and emotions more frequently, it’ll become easier and more natural for you to do that and will lead to an overall healthier and positive mindset.
Emily Blair, ALMFT