As a child, adults often tell you not to cry, to ignore your sadness. Culturally speaking, we are taught to avoid all unpleasant emotions. At any cost.
So, our impulse when we experience strong emotions is to escape them. We might do this by drinking too much alcohol, taking drugs, staying busy, emotional eating (or restricting food), smoking, and a number of other behaviors that harm us.
Negative emotions often feel stronger than others. When you are dealing with heartbreak it feels as though the world is ending. No pain has ever felt so concentrated, so deep or so agonizing.
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The thing is, your body feels the pain of heartbreak and sadness quite literally. According to the University of California, Los Angeles’ Matthew Lieberman, the same area of your brain lights up when you experience social rejection and physical hurt. So, heartbreak literally hurts.
Negative emotions like sadness can also cause you to gain weight or lose it because we either binge on food or spurn it. Of course, this is complicated by the fact that sadness often bathes your brain in stress hormones. This causes your body to tense up, the point is to spur you into action. Except, you’re not facing a fight or flight situation, you’re just dealing with headaches, a stiff neck, and swollen muscles.
This is why it’s so important that you allow yourself to truly experience and process the emotions that you are actually feeling.
1. It’s Dangerous To Numb Pain
If you try to numb your pain and sadness, you also run the risk of numbing your joy and happiness. You can’t really pick and choose which emotions to numb, so when you try to numb one, you succeed in numbing them all.
Sure, you may experience less anger, but what of joy and happiness? Part of the experience of being human is that we have a range of emotions. Sadness and pain are just part of the human condition, and they make it possible to also experience happiness and joy. No one emotion lasts forever, but they are all very necessary.
2. Struggle Leads to Suffering
If you fight your emotions, then you will experience more suffering. Simply because we tend to indulge in negative behaviors in a bid to numb those emotions. It’s a lot like applying butterfly stitches to a broken leg. These behaviors won’t repair any underlying issues. You will feel worse in the long run as you rely on negative coping strategies.
Instead of suppressing your feelings, you have to become a mindful observer. Take notice of the emotions that you are experiencing and allow yourself to experience them. What is it they try to tell you? For example, resentment may be indicative of someone disrespecting your boundaries.
3. It’s Part of a Full Life
Emotions are just part of life. If you focus on suppressing or numbing your emotions, then you stand in the way of your own happiness. If you want to live a life that is meaningful and full, then you have to process your emotions.
Every emotion that you experience is normal, healthy, and natural. The unhealthy aspect of our emotion is how we deal with it or don’t. Learning how to process your emotions is an act of self-compassion. You deserve the same kindness that you extend to your nearest and dearest. Don’t beat yourself up for the emotions that you feel. Instead, show yourself kindness and work through them.
Vulnerability is a sign of strength, not weakness. How you heal and the way you travel through your emotions is how you free yourself. There are a number of ways you can do this, it’s up to you to determine which method is the most effective for you, whether it be keeping a journal, expressing yourself through art or visiting a therapist.