What messages have you received throughout life about your emotions and feelings? This is a very important question to consider because whether you are young, old, a man, or a women, the media, your family, and society at large imparts subtle yet powerful messages about how you are supposed to express, perceive, and deal with emotions and feelings. There are many gender stereotypes we can consider, which are probably familiar to all of us. Do any of these sound familiar? “Boys don’t cry.” “Get over it and suck it up.” “Girls don’t get angry.” “You’re such a sensitive girl.” “Don’t you raise your voice at me!” More likely than not, these themes have drifted into your unconscious and may be impacting how you process your feelings whether you realize it or not. Fortunately, emotions aren’t right or wrong despite the messages we’ve learned. Emotions are natural responses based on what we believe and think, and we can learn to accept how we feel and express these feelings in a healthy way. Developing emotional awareness, working through these 10 myths that may pervade your belief system, and validating our feelings is how we can start to deal with difficult emotions and begin cultivating greater positivity.
1. There is a right way to feel in every situation
Wrong! There is not right or wrong way to feel. We all come from different backgrounds and have very different experiences that lead us to perceive things in our own unique way. Two people can experience the same situation with a completely different frame of reference, leading to very different responses and reactions. How we respond to the way we feel is what’s important. Consider if the way you are responding is working for you. If it’s not working consider how else you can handle the way you feel.
2. Letting others know how I feel is a weakness
It’s likely some of you came from a family background that didn’t openly express emotions. Yelling was not tolerated and crying was a clandestine activity. Because of this you may have learned that expressing emotions isn’t appropriate and shows that you just can’t handle what life has to offer. We can all put on this emotional armor at times, but when we never open up and intimately connect with others, relationships will suffer. If we have come to believe that expressing emotions is a weakness we’ll have trouble coming to grips with our true self. We’ll lack congruence and always be hiding behind a mask and facade of how we truly feel and who we truly are.
3. Negative feelings are bad and destructive
Have you ever felt guilty about the way you feel? You know those situations where you feel angry, sad, or jealous, and you start to get critical of yourself for feeling this way. You may say, “I’m not supposed to feel bad, I’m supposed to be happy.” “Why can’t I deal with this?” Everyone, yes that’s right everyone, even the Dali Lama experiences the vast range of human emotions. Though having negative feelings isn’t necessarily destructive and bad. It comes back to how we respond to these emotions. Emotions such as anger and sadness are there for our survival and learning to recognize when these emotions are constructive and destructive is the key. For instance, sadness helps us grieve loss, and gain social support and bond with others through the process. However, when grief and sadness leads to depression we might have a problem. Emotions are there to help us navigate life as long as don’t let them overtake us.
4. Being emotional means being out of control
I imagine there are times where you have lost your temper, or did something you regretted based on a moment of passionate emotion. I know this has happened to me, and it happens to the best of us. However, being in touch with our emotions doesn’t necessarily equate with being out of control. We can be very in control and learn to use reason and logic alongside emotion and feelings. Learning to experience our emotions in an objective manner provides a way to think before we act, while still acknowledging the way we feel. A coach mentor of mind uses the phrase, “Coat checking our emotions at the door.”
5. Emotions can happen for no reason
Some people may disagree with this, but more often than not, emotions are triggered by something. Emotions come on very quickly, but they do stem from somewhere. Most likely from our beliefs or the way we think about a certain situation. When we don’t have conscious awareness about what triggers our emotions or how to perceive and notice what emotion we are experiencing, it can seem like emotions come out of nowhere. However, when we can learn to be aware of the triggers in our environment, the body changes that occur, and what we are thinking about, we can develop the skill of emotional intelligence and begin to think about our feelings instead of acting on them.
6. Some emotions are stupid and wrong
This may be getting a little redundant, but it’s worth the repetition. Emotions are a natural part of being a human being! No emotions are wrong or stupid. The way we feel is the way we feel in a given situation. It may not always be rational, but it’s certainly not wrong or stupid. Learning to validate the way we feel is a major part of effectively processing and work through emotions. When we become critical of how we feel it only makes things worse and more difficult. Its okay to feel the way you feel.
7. I should feel and be a certain way.
Ah, the ultimate shame producing mentality. Thinking we should be feel and certain way when we don’t, or be a certain type of person when we’re not, is exactly the type of perspective that leads to shame and self-criticism. How we think we “should” be is based on comparing ourselves to others, and all the external expectations we have been inculcated with since we were young. This sets us up for failure to be something we’re not. We may have some perfect ideal image of who we are and never be able to live up to this. So, learning to accept who we are and where we are at the moment will relieve significant emotional distress.
8. Other people are the best judge of how I feel
If there’s one thing you know more about than anyone else, it’s YOU! Basing the way we feel on the judgments of others makes emotional-awareness very difficult. We are always the best judge of how we feel and what is going on in our body and soul. If something doesn’t feel right, there is probably a reason for this. Learning to trust our intuition and judgments is crucial to reaching peace of mind. It may take practice, but we are the best suited person to make decisions for our life. Don’t ever tell anyone or let anyone else tell you, “I know how you feel.” No one can know how we truly feel except ourselves.
9. Painful emotions should be ignored and repressed
Have you ever know someone who tends to hold in and stuff their emotions? What tends to happen in the long run? They explode! When we don’t pay attention to the way we feel and try to block out our emotions, it only comes back to bite is in the end. When painful emotions and feelings emerge we can learn that ignoring them helps us avoid conflict and further stress, but this is a paradox that will ultimately prevent us from ever solving any problems and dealing with what we are avoiding. Getting in touch with our feelings means becoming vulnerable enough to connect with all our emotions, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Don’t pair your emotions with your value as a person. Its okay to feel how you feel. You’re value is not related to what you feel.
10. Positive emotions aren’t in my control
To an extent this is true, we can’t make ourselves feel positivity if it’s not heartfelt and sincere, but we can learn to develop and enhance our ability to experience heartfelt and sincere positive emotions. Everything from practicing gratitude, developing creativity, and engaging in inspirational activities can start to boost our positivity. We can learn to bring more joy, pleasure, and gratification into our life by doing what we love. We can do acts of kindness for others and develop a sense of compassion for those who are struggling. All of this will help bring more positivity into your life. We can learn to move past these myths we have held onto since our childhood. We can heal as a person and learn how to effectively deal with emotions and the distress that may accompany them. This comes from learning that mistakes are okay, being willing to accept ourselves and how we feel, being vulnerable enough to share these feelings, and knowing that we are not our feelings and we don’t have to act upon them. Be free from these myths and find peace of mind. Photo credit: kelsey_lovefusionphoto I hope you enjoyed this post!