by Kristin Kuiper, LMSW, MSW
Furious, ecstatic, rejected, agitated, proud, encouraged, lonely, glum, ruffled, bothered, ticked off, pleased, optimistic, perplexed, awkward, left out, refreshed, secure…to mention a few. I’m sure you can come up with some other words that might describe how you are feeling right now.
Have you experienced any of these emotions lately? Or have you been too busy, too distracted, to out of tune to notice anything more in yourself than mad or glad? When we get busy, get overwhelmed with certain stages and phases of life, when we have a full calendar, we can often forget to tune in and tend to what is going on for us emotionally. And we all know what happens then—we might be exploding at our partner, feel exhausted, get sick more often, experience a lack of joy, among other regrettable things.
Research shows that people who try and numb their emotions or try to ignore negative emotions (anger, sadness, fear, etc) also have a difficult time accessing wonderful and positive emotions (joy, delight, belonging). This leads to a lot of anxiety, depression, apathy. We humans are hard wired to experience a very full range of emotion. Some of these emotions are uncomfortable—we learn over the course of our lives that they are not okay or we feel confused when we stumble through how to express them in responsible ways. Other emotions are challenging because they are so strong in positive ways (I remember when I delivered my first child—the depth of my relief and joy was nearly impossible to express!). Sometimes we try and numb out these undesirable feelings through drinking too much, eating too much, surfing the internet for too many hours, getting too busy with activities.
Do you notice this in yourself—some emotions that are there but aren’t being tended to? Part of what gets in the way is our own judgement of ourselves—being hard on ourselves when certain feelings arise. Practicing kindness and gentleness toward yourself and recognizing that it is critical to honor your emotions so that you can be present in your life, in your roles, and in your relationships is part of working toward emotional health.++