Are You Afraid to Feel?
For many people, expressing difficult emotions or admitting you have “negative” feelings like sadness or anger feels difficult or even impossible. There are lots of people that do not want to feel anxious or hurt or upset, so they push those feelings aside and choose to ignore them. And the most significant reason they do this is because they are afraid of their emotions.
Why Fear Emotions?
It is a complicated answer to understand why so many people are afraid to feel strong, intense, or so-called negative emotions. But the primary reason is that, for whatever reason, they were taught that these feelings are simply not acceptable. Whether that message came from your parents or other caregivers at an early age, from a spouse or partner later in life, or a supervisor at work, a common mindset, unfortunately in our society is that you should just be strong and get over it. Period.
Mental health professionals around the world will tell you that “suck it up” is not a valid coping mechanism. Dismissing or ignoring feelings does not, in fact, make them go away. It means they linger, unprocessed and misunderstood, and eventually, they will find new ways to manifest themselves, including by affecting your mental, physical, and emotional well-being over time.
In our society, emotions are often seen as a sign of weakness. And when you do not have much practice at handling these intense feelings, even just a small expression of them can feel terrifying and like you will suddenly fall apart and not be able to recover. So, you just end up holding it all in.
Fear of how other people will see us is another reason why people chose to ignore or express their feelings. If you are perceived as emotional, you could be hurt or betrayed by others. Our culture values happiness, and when we see others expressing sadness or fear, the most common reaction is to see them as weak instead of strong. We value happiness so much that many believe that, if you have some other emotion that is not happiness, your life is in dysfunction and you will not be able to become satisfied or fulfilled.
Learning to Embrace Your Feelings
When you stop ignoring or pushing aside your emotions and learn to really experience and express them, you will see that this is not an indulgent, self-centered approach to life but one that actually gives you more energy and joy. When you are always stuffing your feelings away, that takes a lot of mental strength and constant vigilance. When you learn to recognize and understand your emotions and FEEL them, you also learn that you can then move on from your feelings and become much more productive and happier.
Spending just a small amount of time on experiencing, acknowledging, and processing all your emotions, not just the positive ones, can leave you with much more mental and emotional space than you would imagine, as you are not always worried and anxious about who you will deal with the unexpected or handle setbacks and disappointments.
When we allow ourselves to experience all our emotions, we also learn that all feelings are only temporary and that they have only the influence over your life as you want them to have. But, when you live in fear of your emotions, they all have too much power and control over everything you do.
When you stop trying to push away or ignore emotions that need to be felt, when you embrace all the feelings that make your life rich and interesting, you will see that there isn’t anything to fear when it comes to your emotions. And by expressing and experiencing them, your life becomes more enjoyable and satisfying, not less.