A lot of us have the belief that there are good and bad emotions. Good emotions are things like happiness, joy and curiosity. Bad emotions are things like anger, shame and sadness. We have been taught and socialized to believe that we shouldn’t feel any of these negative emotions or worse still express them – especially anger – and just feel positive emotions all the time.
But what if I told you that there is no such thing as a negative emotion? That all emotions serve a purpose and serve as our greatest allies in our healing and wellbeing?
What if I told you that there is no such thing as a negative emotion except one that is not expressed?
There is a lot of talk about positive thinking and mantras these days, and although I definitely believe it is important to keep a positive outlook on life and be mindful of our inner dialogue, it is also essential – dare I say critical – to our wellbeing that we not push down or avoid feeling any emotions that we deem as negative or painful.
Our emotions provide us with important information. Our emotions, particularly the ones we prefer to avoid feeling, like fear, shame and sadness, are messengers that bring with them details about our wounds and are invitations to the parts of ourselves that crave healing.
Most of us would rather distract ourselves than sit with our painful thoughts and emotions. We turn to numbing behaviours that a mentor of mine to calls, ‘the substitute for legitimate suffering.’ These are behaviours such as social media, television, sex, shopping or drinking and gambling. The thing is, these behaviours don’t offer us the relief from the pain that we are looking for, and instead they make us feel worse and cause further suffering in the form of addiction and shame.
If you’re feeling unworthy and unlovable, no amount of shopping, sex or drinking is going to heal that wound or take away the suffering of feeling the pain of your emotions. Sure, you may feel a momentary high, but in reality this type of behaviour only makes you feel worse after the fact, and the pain of the original emotions remain.
Because the truth is, what we resist, persists. If we resist feeling our emotions – especially those that we deem negative or painful – they will persist. Why? Because they are trying to tell us something!
What we really need, and what offers true healing, is not avoidance or addictive behaviours. It’s diving head-first straight into our emotional pain with courage and an open heart. I believe we have to feel our pain to heal it.
If there is one thing I have learnt through my own healing journey and witnessing the journeys of my patients, it’s that all of our transformation happens inside our pain. It happens in the valley – not at the mountain top.
“Brutiful: Life is brutal and life is beautiful. Brutiful I call it. Life’s brutal and beautiful woven together so tightly they’re inseparable. We must embrace both or neither. If we reject the brutal, we reject the beautiful. Our problems stem from our refusal to surrender to the fact that life is truly more brutal and beautiful than we can imagine. We must let it be. Breathe deeply and know that if we let it come and feel it all, the brutal will make us kinder, softer and stronger and even more beautiful.” – Glennon Doyle Melton
Often we like to treat our painful emotions like hot potatoes and get rid of them as quickly as possible. We become afraid that the full weight of our pain thinking it will kill us – that we cannot survive it. But WE CAN. When we allow ourselves to feel the full weight of it, to really be still and be with it, something magical happens. It slowly begins to pass. The grey skies slowly begin to clear and the sun starts to peak out from behind the clouds.
The way to dissolve our resistance to pain is to lean into it, feel it and ride the wave of emotion. Pain is where we find our wholeness, it’s where wisdom and strength are born.
Another thing I have learnt is that everything we need to transform ourselves, to heal ourselves and become more ourselves is in our pain. We may not want to feel it, because we fear that it might engulf us. But if we can be still inside the pain and find the gifts inside of it we discover the healing and the transformational power of it.
Get curious about your pain. Don’t resist it, get curious about it. Grab it by the shoulders and go into it head on. We heal by feeling it all and then loving ourselves back to ourselves – back to wholeness. And this can only be done if we first have the courage to feel the painful emotions.