Giving Yourself the Gift of Emotions

Our "be happy" culture loves "positivity" so much that anything else can seem shameful, even scary.

Just look at common ways we try to avoid "negative" emotions - and the effects:

  • numb out by over-doing alcohol, shopping, food, busyness, social media, exercise...

  • focus on "easier" emotions like anger and blame to avoid "scarier" underlying emotions such as deep sorrow, which then persists

  • hide negativity and then "shut down," internalizing guilt, shame, anxiety

  • put on a false "happy face" out of people pleasing and perfectionism, depriving us of real and honest connection with others

  • avoid challenges and temporary discomforts that could benefit our personal growth

No doubt about it, these methods can provide relief in the moment. But it's no picnic.

Fearful avoidance is exhausting, ineffective and potentially harmful. And unnecessary.

So while it might sound a bit "out there," I'd offer that allowing yourself to courageously feel all emotions is one of the best gifts you can give yourself.

I get it can be scary. But understanding emotions can make them less so.

Here are 6 things to know about emotions, when dealt with in healthy ways:

Emotions are information. Feelings are feedback. They can help you make decisions, know how you want to treat others and yourself, see what you need more or less of in your life. Example: stress can tell you to take extra good care of yourself right now. Emotions and thoughts create an information system unique to you - it's your wisdom.

Emotions won't harm you. Pain is uncomfortable. But it won't kill you. We've accepted emotions like stress can kill. Newer studies now show: the belief that "negative" emotions harm is most threatening. It makes sense: thinking stress is just part of life, that you can handle it and use it as information --then it's not a problem. Believing stress is bad and shouldn't be happening and will end up killing you -- that's a lot more stress and a much bigger problem.

Emotions are temporary physical sensations. Allowing our feelings means we're feeling them physically in our bodies. Then they dissipate. Think of nervous butterflies in your stomach. It's a clear physical response. Or clenched muscles when we're angry. None of it lasts.

Emotions are caused by our thinking. Using the public speaking-butterflies example, feeling nervous could come from thoughts about audience size or preparation. Once the speech starts, nervousness and butterflies may release. In your mind, thoughts have shifted - maybe to "I can do this, I am doing this." Then you might feel nerves again. Just a different set of thoughts. Knowing feelings are caused by thoughts means feelings don't just happen, we're not at their mercy. We can have control when we want to.

Feelings aren't good or bad. They're neutral sensations. They're not right or wrong until we judge them. Which we do! We've all experienced societal conditioning praising "positive" feelings and discouraging - even condemning - "negative." Which brings me to the next point...

All feelings are a normal part of the human experience. We're not meant to be happy all the time. How do we know? Because we do have other emotions. No point arguing with reality. Without sorrow there's no joy. Without emotions, we're robots. Sounds kind of boring. A full life has it all.

So, to tie this up in a semi-neat package, allowing emotions is a gift.

When we stop fearing painful feelings, we're free. We're not tied to coping by avoidance. We know that all feelings, no matter how unpleasant, are normal, survivable, temporary - even useful.

You're a human mom and that's a beautiful thing. This pain, this estrangement - it's part of your unique human experience. Pushing against that reality keeps us stuck.

Try to see it's okay - it's normal - to feel hurt and vulnerable and flawed. Try to love that you're a human. Embrace it, ugly emotions and all. It's one of the best, most caring and loving gifts you can give yourself.

You deserve a full life and so much love, my beautiful mamas! ❤️

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