“Sometimes, the only way out is through.” -Robert Frost
It’s ok to not be happy all the time. White knuckling joy in uncomfortable or painful moments is unhealthy. Emotions signal to us that something is up, and sitting with and moving through our negative emotions allows us to grow, and the shitty feelings to pass.
Honestly, if you’re stuffing down negative emotions all the time, they will linger longer and pop up in unexpected ways if you don’t face them, like road rage, snapping on coworkers, or eating an entire package of Oreos in an evening.
Emotions are like fish swimming with the current. They swim along and pass by in nature, although sometimes there’s rocky sections that take a bit longer to pass, and might result in some bruises. Ignoring your emotions is like building a dam. The fish get stuck, and have to work twice as hard to pass through, or they just end up sticking around, swimming in their own filth. They’re also more susceptible to disease and predators.
I bottled things up for years, thinking it was the tough, adult thing to do, and the same issues, the same emotions, kept coming back up. There’s truly no way around feeling your emotions, the only way out is through, as they say. I rarely allowed myself to sit and feel sad, angry, or disappointed, or whatever it was.
I was raised to toughen up, remember that someone always had it worse, and that alcohol could ease pain. Through trial and error, some failed relationships, an eating disorder and a few therapists, however, I learned that these were not the greatest methods, after all.
During these years, I was, not surprisingly, constantly stressed out and anxious, and a big part of that was all the stress I was holding on to by suppressing what I was feeling. I tried to escape by controlling my weight, and numbing out with drugs and alcohol. Really, it was more like avoiding paying a bill, that was compounding in interest every passing month.
Challenging your thinking, finding hope, and feeling gratitude in hard times can help bring you out of spiraling into a black hole. I’ve spent a lot of time in that hole, I paid rent to that hole, and I wish I could get my money back, but I don’t regret signing the lease because I learned, crystal clear, what didn’t work. This is more about accepting the fact that it’s ok to have bad days, sad days, messy days, lazy days, or confused days. Life happens.
Spirituality is not a reason to ignore the darker parts of being human, but it is a tool to help us get through those shadows.
Once I learned to allow my emotions, and allowed myself to feel them, a weight lifted. I felt relief. I felt satisfied, and ready to move on, ironically enough, much more quickly.
I also found myself with more free time, mental clarity, energy and money since I wasn’t obsessing over my food intake and weight, and wasn’t always reaching for booze or weed when I felt something uncomfortable.
The thing about emotions is that they aren’t always logical, and they don’t have to be. Something in your past, in your biology, or in your genetics may be triggering you to feel the way you do and that is ok! The brain is a complex thing that we can learn to master, but sometimes it has other ideas.
We are incredibly complex creatures with different histories, preferences, memories, personalities, and genetics. Negative emotions are a part of life, whether you want them to be or not. There. Is. No. Escaping. It. No one is happy all the time. You can be happy most of the time, you can strive to see the good in everything, but you cannot be happy all the time and that is ok. You wouldn’t want to be anyways, because happiness wouldn’t be as sweet if you had it all the time, just like if dessert was served for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day. We need the variety to appreciate sweetness.
The cool thing is that pain is a tough but brilliant teacher. Every time you feel pain, you can use it as an opportunity to grow and learn. Every time you allow yourself to feel pain, you have the opportunity to learn the ways in which you best process it.
Please don’t beat yourself up over having negative emotions. You can feel bad, and still be hopeful and positive, but sometimes even that might be a struggle. Cut yourself some slack. You are human, and if you are struggling, know that you are not alone, it’s perfectly natural, and everyone experiences it, whether they show it or not. It’s ok to ask for help, to look for therapists, or self-help books. You deserve to feel good, and to learn how to cope when you feel bad.
Most of us have heard about this “highlight reel” syndrome social media has created, making it seem as though the lives of others is all vacation time, picture perfect relationships, perfectly angled selfies and curated kitchen table scenes, but that’s only because that is what people choose to show. There is nothing wrong with wanting to share the positive, but it can make those times when we feel negative emotions feel lonely and isolating, like there’s something wrong with us when there’s not.
It’s ok to feel the struggle, to feel pain, to look at it in the eyes. You don’t have to go on a round-the-world cruise with your pain, but let it have it’s time, let it move through your body, express it, learn from it, then let it go and move on.
You’ve got this.
If you are no stranger to stuffing down your emotions, here’s some tips to help you process and move through them instead:
- Name what you’re feeling. When you feel bad, name the emotion. Oftentimes, naming what we’re feeling helps us to feel it, and also to understand it.
- Take the time to figure out why you are feeling the way you do. Are you afraid? Are your fears rooted in reality or are you driving yourself nuts unnecessarily? Does this remind you of a similar incident from your past?
- Journal. Writing is physical, and so it’s a really good way to “express” your emotions, mentally and physically. I don’t like to dwell in my pain, but writing helps me understand it, and move through it.
- Exercise. Again, moving my body helps me move through and express my emotions. It feels like I can sweat it out and gives me time to be quiet with my thoughts and process. The bonus is that I get a rush of endorphins from this as well, which we can all use in times of struggle.
- Call a friend. If you have someone you can count on, it’s ok to ring them and ask them if it’s a good time to let it out. You would do the same for them.
- Listen to music. Pick something that connects to what you’re feeling and feel it move through your body.
- Cry. Let. It. Out. You will feel so much better when you do. Holding in tears is unhealthy, and the relief we feel after we cry can be immense. I understand not wanting to do this in public, so it’s ok to wait until you have some privacy. It’s also ok if you cry at work. Learn to love a good cry.
- Yell into a pillow. Seriously, if you have to, you can scream into a pillow.
- Learn Kick-boxing or self- defense
- Let go. Let go of your need to control others, outcomes, and every little detail. I know it’s not easy, but if you just accept that you cannot control everything, you will release so much tension in your body. Give up the fight, it is a losing battle and a waste of your energy.
- Accept it. There will be bad days. There will be pain. It is inevitable. You can still have a beautiful life filled with joy and simple pleasures, and have pain simultaneously. That is part of the deal.
- Ask for a hug. It feels good and you know it and there’s no shame in asking.
Sending you my best, and know that this stuff takes time, and constant practice, but it gets easier, I promise.