Don't Discount Your Emotions

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Hate. Anger. Jealousy. Worry. These are all negative feelings that you should avoid, right? Love, happiness, joy, hope, and other positive emotions are, well, much better, so why not choose one of those instead?

There’s just one problem.

You Can’t Choose Your Emotions

Seriously. If people could choose their emotions, why isn’t everyone just happy all the time? Why would you choose any other emotion?

The answer is simply that emotions are not a choice - rather, they are, for the most part, a reaction to the environment you are in.

Barney Choose Awesome It doesn’t work that way!

Now, you can, to a degree choose your environment. Sometimes. Or you can affect it, which in turn will affect your emotions. Sometimes.

For instance, you can choose to get up earlier and make it to work on time. This will probably make you more content. You can’t choose someone else running a red light and t-boning your car. This will probably make you angry and upset.

Which brings me to my next point.

It’s Okay To Feel

It’s common vernacular to say “don’t worry” when something troubling is on the horizon - such as a potential job loss - or “don’t get angry” when telling bad news to someone - such as that actual job loss. Or even “don’t be sad” after someone dies.

You’re allowed to feel.

Glad Trash Bags Don’t Get Mad, Get Glad! If only it were that easy…

Don’t Discount Your Emotions

The thing is, there’s nothing wrong with worrying, getting angry, or being sad, so long as you know how to handle it. And if you don’t know how to handle these emotions, that’s okay, too. No one is born knowing how to handle emotions. Everyone has to learn.

If you’re having trouble handling emotions, this is where therapy can be helpful. Going to therapy doesn’t mean you’re a failure when it comes to emotions, just like going to math class doesn’t mean you’re a failure at Calculus.

Where I’m Going With This

I’ve known quite a few people who think they don’t have a right to be sad because, at least on the surface, they have it good. I’ve been there. So that upsets them. They’re sad because they think they shouldn’t be sad. I call this the cycle of depression - it’s a form of a negative feedback loop (technically positive feedback loop, since negative feedback loops stabilize). They may need external intervention to stop the loop - they can’t “snap out of it.”

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about my emotions and trying to understand them. I’ve tried controlling my emotions. I’ve tried ignoring them (and still do to a degree, especially if it’s an emotion I’m unfamiliar with). But, despite still being a long way from understanding them, what I’ve had the most success with is simply accepting my emotions.

I’m not a mental health professional, so please don’t take this post as anything other than my thoughts.

2 comments for Don't Discount Your Emotions

  • Liked this post. If only everything was so simple.

    I am a software engineer. And I decided to take a break because I was miserable at work. And the moment I made that decision, something changed. In the next two weeks, I realized that I like my job.

    The only things that changed is that I stopped going to unnecessary meetings and did my work the way it should be done, not concentrating on all the low hanging fruits.

    I now know, everything is in my head.

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