Denying Your Emotions
Question of the week
Dude, I thought this was a podcast that was supposed to help dads with their sons. When are you going to start helping those dads with their sons?
We are often stoic for many reasons but can that be overdone? Yes, the answer is simply yes. It can be overdone. We as people develop different means to cope with the different events in our lives. Often though we use these coping mechanisms to help us avoid uncomfortable situations or events.
As men, we have a different set of skills and abilities that we are able to use in stressful situations. These skills are often called stoicism. This is where we hold off on letting emotions take ahold of us until a later time. This is because we are often putting ourselves into stressful events, ie war, protecting our family, and similar circumstances.
Yet sometimes we as humans avoid those emotions or take stoicism to an extreme. Doing this we deny our emotions the life they need to live. We see emotions as this thing that just gets in the way of our comfort and so we avoid circumstances and events that cause unwanted emotions to crop up. We resist those emotions we perceive to be bad emotions.
Why you don’t want to resist your emotions
Emotions are the color of your memories. When we remember back to times when we were young we think of how you felt. I remember the smell of my great grandparent’s property. Central Texas in the spring. Everything smelt green you had the fragrances of henbit and sage mixed with the humidity and I feel happy and free on their property. I would go to the creek to go fishing if there was water or just explore the rocks when there was no water.
As you see the emotions are the binding element of your memory it colors it and takes you right back to that time. Even times when it wasn’t just rainbows and lollipops still have those emotions tied to your experience. You even are able to look back and laugh at those times that were simply miserable. Maybe you went on a camping trip and it rained the whole time you were there. It was just a light rain it was a turd floater the whole weekend. Yeah it was cold and nothing was dry but when you look back on it you laugh. Especially when you have your friends involved. If you were in the military you know Bootcamp sucked but you still can’t help but look back and have fond memories of the gas chamber and getting smoked because someone left a locker unlocked.
Emotions are apart of who we are. They may have been designed to help us know when we are safe but they are more than that now. That fear and anxiety you have now use to crop up when you were exploring a new cave to see if you can live there or was there a bear that was already inhabiting it. You would have been nervous and on edge, till you were able to prove to yourself that there wasn’t anything in there that could eat you. Once you had a fire and was able to eat yourself you felt comfortable and at rest.
In today’s world we see an uncomfortable situation it isn’t a matter of life and death it is a matter of comfort or discomfort. You aren’t very likely to die if you get uncomfortable and you are not going to starve to death if you don’t go out. So we don’t have to bear the discomfort of different emotions as we use to. In fact, we have become averse to some emotions and we deny those emotions. Doing so has many problematic effects on us.
We don’t grow
Much like your muscles, if you don’t work them you become weaker. If you want to beagle to face the challenges you have in your life you have to experience the emotions that come with it. Life is 50% pleasure and 50% pain. You can’t escape the pains of life. And you really wouldn’t want to anyway. Why would you want to be happy at a friend’s funeral? You would want to be sad. You would want to grieve the loss of your friend.
When you resist feeling emotions you resist the ability to grow. You develop stronger skills when you are stressed by an occurrence. You find out that that fear you had was just holding you back. If you don’t experience that fear and anxiety of trying that something new you will just keep avoiding it each time you encounter it. Instead, the more you feel that fear the more you are ready to head right into the problem. You cant become the great man you wan tot be if you are running away from everything that scares you. You can’t kill the dragon if you don’t approach it.
We can’t relate
When talking to people you share stories. What are stories other than tales that help others experience the emotions you were feeling at the time? Remember emotions are colors. So if you avoid fear and anxiety and other negative emotions you are not going to have the experiences that others will have. This will cause you to not be able to relate to what others are going through. You will be wrapped up in your own emotions and trying to avoid them.
When resisting emotions we develop some harmful habits. These habits are made to distract us. They keep us from having to experience that emotion but making us feel something completely different for a short time and often at the detriment of our happiness. Look at a time in your life where you decided that you had a crappy day and you are just going to get drunk you can’t deal with what was going on anymore so you grab your poison of choice and get to work. Soon you are thoroughly polluted. That night you go to be and wake up feeling horrible. You are hungover. Your head feels like a bunch of kindergarteners are using it as a pinata and you have a bad case of sour stomach. Now imaging doing that every day and you are an alcoholic. You make yourself feel like crap because you don’t want to face the emotions of the day. What does that accomplish?
Because you are resisting the discomfort of life you are in fact making yourself feel even worse. There is no logic in that. Yeah, your mind may come up with some clever excuse as to why but if you step out of your “oh woe is me” world you will see how screwed up that thinking really is.
This addiction can go towards overeating. How do you feel after you have been stress eating? You don’t feel stress anymore but you feel bloated and sluggish. Which is honestly better? The stress of the moment or the bloated feeling you have?
Apply that to heroin. Yeah, you leave this world but what is the cost? That cost is detrimental to you, your family, your lively hood, and your life.
Resisting causes the denied emotion to grow.
If you are trying to avoid stress or anxiety, you will often try all sorts of tactics to avoid that feeling. We often want to blame others for the source of our emotions and that simply isn’t the case. Your thoughts of a circumstance cause your emotions. So when you start obsessing over avoiding that emotion you are going to think of that emotion even more. Thus you are making your anxiety even stronger.
Resisting your emotions cause you to also start to feel isolated and alone. This is the time you really need to have your friends close by and readily able to talk to. Yet if you are resisting that discussion your friend’s sense that you are hiding something and this causes your friends to start distancing themselves. So you make your problem grow even more. All because you are denying your emotions the life they are supposed to have.
If you are not willing to go into the discomfort needed for you to grow and become the person you were supposed to be. Then you start to feel as if your life has become stagnate and you are stuck. So you have to find a way to get out of that rut and face the fear and discomfort of growing. To do that you have to face the emotions that you are feeling.
So how do you allow your emotions to live? Well, the main way is to be with your emotions to give them space. Now, this is easier said than done. Your mind will fight you on going back to being comfortable. So it is easier to do when you have someone you can lean on. There is coaching that will help you see where your thoughts are leading you astray. A good coach will give you exercises that can help you see when you are lying to yourself and making excuses and much more.
Another way you can get help is by joining a group of people who are committed to helping you. Often this is called a mastermind or just a support group much like The Conclave of Men.
Finally, if you have a friend who is on the same path you are. Start talking with them and actually listen to them.
Now, what does giving space to your emotions mean? Giving yourself space means that you aren’t going to try to fight your emotions. IF you feel an emotion rise stop what you are doing and allow it to do its thing. Look at and examine that feeling with some curiosity. What does it feel like? Is it warm or cold? Does it have pressure somewhere on your body? What type of pressure. A shallow dull pressure or sharp and pointed? Look at it. Examine it. Give it a name. Often we won’t know what that emotion really is when it first crops up. But if you sit back and come to understand it you may see that the sadness is really grief and grief is a celebration of a loss of a connection. We remember what that person meant to us.
So Take the time needed to come to understand your emotions. Understanding them is good. You don’t have to let them run your life but you need to let them run their life. So many times we worry that we will drown in sorrow. When in reality that sorrow will only arise when we think back on the lost connection. That is ok and is just fine to feel the loss. It is good to feel sorrow. It is good to have that fire of determination. We need that fuel to get ourselves out of the hole we are in. Once we go through that fire we often find out that we are stronger and better equipped for the next challenge that comes our way.