Why is it good to let ourselves feel bad?
Updated: Jul 31, 2020
I read this eye-opening piece on why avoiding negative emotions seems like a good idea but it isn't. It contributed to changing how I managed negative emotions. I wanted to share this brilliant mindset-changing take on negative emotions with you. Specifically, how it changed a particular experience of mine.
On this particular day, I felt very anxious again after a long time of feeling better. Maybe it's going too well I thought. My first instinct was to berate myself. 'You're past this now, get a grip!'. But I thank this article because it was a small part of my journey in healing. I realised in the moment that this is exactly the problem. This need to 'fix' my problems. I wanted to pack away these messy feelings because they were inconvenient.
But being human means we have a capacity to feel, a sensitivity. It allows you to appreciate goosebump-raising music, beautiful art that changes your perspective of the world and feel love. But the same sensitivity will mean you feel negative emotions too. You push it away in vain. You want to squash away those feelings in a nice, tidy box. It will definitely help you feel better, in the short-term. As Shpancer says, emotional avoidance seems like a good idea. You feel instant relief. It's like those who drink as a coping strategy. You feel better but then tomorrow those feelings return and you drink again. It's an addictive cycle.
But why exactly is avoiding them a bad idea? When you pursue the best experiences in life, they will definitely involve challenges. That's just inherent to life. But your avoidance will become a prison. Sure you feel safe, you don't feel those lows, but also you miss those highs. You narrow your horizons. You can't realise your potential. The longer you do this, the more you will feel like you can't cope. That resilience you build when you don't avoid negative emotions, will become your wings.
It takes one brave moment to not run, in those scary situations and feelings. It will feel very overwhelming. But your body and mind will realise: 'oh, I'm actually okay'. Slowly, that becomes confidence. Every time you step out, it will become easier. Not that you won't feel negative emotions, but you act in spite of them. You don't fear them. What's the fuss? I can deal with it. They're not here to torment me, they are simply a source of information.
This is a real testament to how much you can change. If my stubborn ass, can suck it up, you definitely can! Asking for help and acknowledging how you feel is very freeing. Embrace negative feelings and people who want to help you with open arms. You won't regret it.
Inspired by article on Emotional Acceptance by Noam Shpancer Ph.D.