Emotions often become things we strongly dislike. Sometimes emotions are obvious but so painful that they interfere with life.
Other times, emotions come and go so quickly that it becomes difficult to identify them. When this happens, people often feel numb and seek ways to avoid them.
Common avoidance techniques are things that give us short-term relief such as drugs, alcohol, sex, self-harm, gambling, video games and even binge-watching TV.
This is not surprising because we live in a world of instant gratification. However, our mental health deserves more time and attention than just a quick fix.
Short-term solutions might appear to work in the moment, but they fail to address the underlying issues.
In order to truly understand emotions, we need to gain a healthy perspective about them. Emotions exist in everyone. We are born with them.
Think about it: Did anyone teach you how to feel angry, sad or happy? It is possible that you learned from others how to act on your emotions, but no one had to show you how to feel it. You just did.
According to some scales, humans have eight primary emotions: anger, sorrow, joy, fear, disgust, guilt, interest and surprise. Under each of these emotions there are different words to describe the various intensity levels.
Each emotion serves a purpose in our life. Joy might be the emotion we desire most, but we need to embrace the presence of them all.
Without guilt, we might never learn from our mistakes.
Without fear, we might constantly do things that hurt us.
Without disgust, we might consume rotten food.
Without anger, we might never protect ourselves when being taken advantage of.
Emotions can be uncomfortable, but remember that no emotion lasts forever. Keep that in mind and work towards preventing the momentary emotions from impacting your whole day.
Emotions do not define us. Try not to judge yourself for having them. We are allowed to feel the way we feel, despite who validates them or not.
But remember, just because we have an emotion does not mean we have to act on it.
Allow yourself time to recognize your emotions. Don’t just feel them, put a name to them and figure out what caused them.
Gather ALL the facts around you to make sure you are not misinterpreting the situation. Write them down, or find someone you trust to process with.
Working through unpleasant emotions can be difficult and take time, but the results can empower you and result in lasting peace.
Philip Searcy MSW, LISW-CP is a therapist for adults and adolescents with Psychological and Counseling Associates of the Lowcountry, LLC in Bluffton.