It’s tempting to think that if we are smart enough, if we plan well, we can avoid heartbreak and sadness, anger or pain. The problem is – that’s not the way that we’re built. Emotions are our body’s way of motivating us and communicating with ourselves and others. Despite their usefulness, embracing our emotions doesn’t always seem easy. Sometimes feelings are so intense that it may seem impossible. But, by learning how to navigate through these moments, we can begin to feel more confident and in control.
It’s important to recognize we have the power to change our emotions. Maybe we feel badly, but when this happens, instead of shutting down or venting our frustrations on others, we can stop and ask ourselves why. As overwhelming as certain emotions may feel, when we break them down, they often become more manageable. If we notice that we’re not only feeling badly, we’re also feeling exhausted and insecure, we can start taking care of ourselves by taking a break or having conversation with a reassuring friend. Identifying the underlying emotions provides us insight into how to resolve them.
It’s also good to remember that our feelings, however intense, don’t last forever. Whatever we’re feeling in a moment, like all moments, will pass. While it makes sense to want to avoid discomfort, when we try to suppress or ignore feelings like anxiety oftentimes the opposite happens and the feeling intensifies. At times like these it can be helpful to sit with our sadness or anxiety. By allowing ourselves to cry through the sadness or allow the anxiety to wash over us like a wave, we allow the emotion to more quickly come to its natural end.
Feelings are important, but so is our judgment. The presence of certain feelings doesn’t always mean something should or shouldn’t be done, and it doesn’t mean we’re weak. In fact, we can feel fear or anxiety and choose to move forward despite feeling paralyzed at times. Our initial feeling isn’t always an accurate reflection of our current situation or the most helpful. Taking a minute to slow down and consider the facts impacting our feeling of fear can help us decide if it would be more beneficial to seek safety or bravely attempt the task at hand.
No one has a perfect life, and things don’t have to feel good all the time for us to thrive. In fact, sometimes we become our best selves when things aren’t how we wanted or pictured. We learn new skills, adapt, and oftentimes even lose the fear that once kept us stuck. At the very least, we learn that we are resilient: that we can navigate the dark and difficult times and lead a life we choose.
Torie Cueto, LMFT is a licensed therapist in San Diego, California. Torie provides in-person therapy in San Diego and online video therapy throughout California.