Sometimes it’s hard to have strong emotions, especially when they are painful or unpleasant. You want the pain to end so you try to avoid your feelings. Maybe if you just don’t think about them, they will go away. It’s normal to want to ignore your difficult feelings. However, unpleasant emotions aren’t meant to be buried or controlled, they are meant to be experienced. The fastest way to heal and improve your emotional well-being is to allow yourself to fully feel your feelings.
Why You Might Try To Avoid Your Feelings
When you experience a difficult feeling, you could believe that ignoring it will make it go away. Perhaps you received messages as a child that your feelings or emotional responses weren’t valid or appropriate. Maybe you were told that there is nothing to cry about, or you shouldn’t be sad. You might even believe that if you let yourself feel them, your emotions will consume you and the pain will never end. The message you received was that unpleasant emotions should be avoided.
When You Avoid Your Feelings
Ignoring or burying your feelings can prolong your painful emotions. When you deny your feelings, they are not able to be processed effectively. The emotion is still present, but there is no obvious outlet. To avoid your unpleasant emotions, you might engage in escapist behaviors, such as drug or alcohol addiction, compulsive sex, or staying busy at all times. Burying your feelings can even lead to chronic health issues and struggles with anxiety and depression. When you avoid your feelings, you become numb to your emotions and can have great difficulty experiencing the positive feelings as well. As the saying goes, in order to know happiness and joy, you must also know sorrow and pain. However, there are things that you can do to help you feel and process your unpleasant feelings.
Schedule A Time To Feel
The more you avoid your feelings, the more likely they are to control your responses and reactions. This often happens at the most inconvenient times and in ways that you regret. Your emotions are fine. You can feel anything you need to feel. When you have a set time to honor your feelings and allow them to be, it is easier to stop them when it is not a good time. If your feelings try to come up when it is not at the set time, picture a stop sign in your head. Remind yourself that you have to focus on this feeling again tomorrow and it is not time to do this now.
Find a time of day that works best for you. The key to scheduling a time to feel is to do something completely different when it’s done. It might be difficult to do this at first. If it is, then wait a few days and try it again and do something different to transition. For instance, you could spend 10 minutes in the morning feeling your feelings and transition by taking a walk.
Name Your Feelings
During the time that you schedule to feel your feelings, you want to allow your feelings to be felt. It can be hard to acknowledge some of the unpleasant emotions you might be experiencing. Instead of stuffing them down and avoiding them, or judging them as wrong and inappropriate, you can simply name them. They are just feelings. If you are feeling guilty about something you said, name the feeling as guilt. Allow yourself to feel the guilt and any other feeling that is associated with it, including sadness, regret, and fear. The better you get at naming your feelings, the easier it will be to recognize and differentiate them. This is true for positive feelings as well.
Don’t Judge Your Feelings
Although it is quite common to make judgments in order to assess a situation and figure out a course of action, it is not necessary where your feelings are concerned. A feeling is a feeling, it is not inherently good or bad, it just is. Practice becoming an observer of your feelings. Notice what you are feeling and name it, without judging it. Allow yourself to fully feel. When you notice that judgment is coming into play, observe your judgment and then let it go. Treat your feelings with gentleness and compassion.
Allow Your Feelings To Be Felt
When you are used to pushing your feelings down, or ignoring them, it can be hard to get in touch with them. If this happens when you first start trying to feel your feelings, don’t give up. Notice when it is easiest to get in touch with your emotions and try to schedule your feeling time then. You could also try writing down what you are feeling. If this isn’t helpful, think of an experience that you have difficulty discussing because of the unpleasant emotions that come up. Write down this experience and name the feelings associated with it. Once you acknowledge what you are feeling, allow the feelings to be. Crying, punching a pillow, talking to yourself, and soothing yourself can allow you to honor your feelings in a healthy way.
Be Kind To Yourself
Treat yourself and the way you are feeling with kindness. Talk to yourself like you would talk to your best friend. Allow your emotions to be felt and respond with compassion. Acknowledge what you are feeling and remind yourself that it is okay. Get comfortable with all of your emotions and become more aware. Let your judgment go and fully embrace the experience of feeling. Meditation and journaling can help you begin to process your feelings.
It might be difficult to connect with your feelings initially. It takes practice and patience to learn how to identify and sit with your emotions. Once you do, you will be able to better understand what your feelings are trying to teach you. Maybe you need to apologize, or speak up for yourself. When you honor your feelings, let them have their time, and learn from them, it is easier to process them and let them go. This way you can focus more on the positive feelings that you will also find easier to access. If you want to improve your emotional well-being, let yourself fully feel your feelings.