July 28, 2014
*This is actually a continuation of an excerpt from an email I wrote to a friend the other day*
Because of the events over the past year, I have been having issues with dealing with “negative” emotions (sadness, anger, worry, guilty etc.).
I’ve been working with my counsellor about this kind of thing, and she’s given me some good tools to deal with it. First, she said we need to stop labelling them as “negative” emotions — all emotions are there for a reason, and it’s OKAY to feel that way. Instead, I’m learning to label them as UNCOMFORTABLE emotions, and giving myself permission to feel them.
Then, I practice giving myself the sympathy and leeway to feel those things that I would give to others. We are often so hard on ourselves with how we feel — WHY am I sad/angry/jealous/ worried/guilty, what is WRONG with me? But there’s nothing wrong…you’re feeling those for a reason. We don’t question ourselves when we’re happy – why do it with other feelings?**
So, now when I am experiencing uncomfortable feeling, I’m starting to FIRST give myself permission to feel that way, then to SECOND look at why I am feeling that way. What is making me so sad, or angry, or why am I so worried?
Then, in figuring out the reason, I can work through the uncomfortable feelings easier. I can use my scientific/logical side to figure out the best way to deal with those feelings and whatever problem there is causing those feelings (if there is actually one).
Last thing she has taught me is that it sucks to have those feelings, BUT I’ve felt them before and have GOTTEN THROUGH IT, and come out the other side okay. We are OKAY after feeling that way. I have been angry, worried, jealous or even really desperately sad before, and am OKAY.
Having these uncomfortable emotions is part of life, and we probably learn the most from them as compared to the happy/sunshiny times.
As an example, a couple weeks ago I wrote about how traumatic it was to go back to the hospital where I was for two weeks, and how upsetting it was that my doctor warned me about going back to school. In talking through this situation with my counsellor, I realized I was more angry than sad.
I was first angry about being told I might not be able to do something that I really want. In fact, I realized that she wasn’t warning me about it because she didn’t think I could do it cognitively (which is why I was upset initially), but was more worried about if additional stress would put me back EMOTIONALLY (because I was really depressed in the hospital for 2 weeks 10 months ago). Now that I know that I crave that kind of stress and challenge – which she doesn’t know (she only knows me for those 2 weeks of my life and defines me by that time) – I know I will be okay.
I was also angry about how I went back into my “patient” role during the appointment – that I didn’t feel like I was my confident, well-articulated, self. I felt I let myself down, and didn’t prove to her how well I really am doing. Uncomfortable emotions again – so, I had to realize I was allowed to feel that way, and that it’s a natural reaction to return to the same “state” you were in during past similar experiences.
Finally, I know that I might feel this way again when I have another appointment…but that’s a good thing because 1) I’ll know it’s possible I’ll feel that way and can be better prepared to deal with those feelings and 2) I am okay after feeling those things, and will be okay the next time too.
It’s a whole different mindset to relabel those feelings and give yourself permission and sympathy to feel them. It’s a work in progress, but I’ve been finding it has helped, especially at times when I’m feeling those things.
**There’s the whole thing about societal pressure to be “happy” these days, so of course we’re hard on ourselves when we’re not because we’re not achieving some perfect life. I won’t get into this here more than that!