One of the biggest ways we contribute to our unhappiness is to argue with our emotions.
Do you argue with your emotions?
I do. It is a habit or maybe it’s a character flaw. Here’s how it goes:
I say to myself, “Gosh, I really feel bad today.” Then, I start down a negative road of denying and invalidating my emotions.
- “Why in the world would I feel bad?
- “What is wrong with me that I feel this way? I have so many wonderful things in my life, why can’t I appreciate them?”
- “What is the matter with me that I can’t stay in a good place and enjoy the moment?”
- “Why am I beating up on myself? I must have something wrong with me that I am beating up on myself.”
The reason versus emotion tangle can continue indefinitely. I know I am not alone in my reluctance to be kind and gentle to myself in my internal thoughts. The funny thing is, that when we feel bad, that is when we need to be kindest to ourselves in order to get through that time more successfully.
We all function within the two realms depicted in the Venn diagram: the emotional realm and the intellectual realm.
In working through our feelings, our intellectual side convinces our emotional side that how we feel is wrong, or it might explain or excuse away what should be warning signals in a relationship or situation.
The tendency to opt for intellect over emotion might have something to do with a culture that defines intellectual as superior, and that for women, has suggested over the ages that women tend to be the “emotional” i.e. irrational ones.
But guess what? Pressuring yourself away from your emotions, whether it’s irritability, depression, anxiety or a short case of the blues, doesn’t really work long-term.
Balance is a big word in well-being these days, so the sweet spot in the Venn Diagram is the middle, a balance of intellect and emotion working together as a team to keep you on track.
Denying your emotions might keep things at bay temporarily, but eventually it will fail because feelings are neither right nor wrong—they just are. How someone feels is how they feel, and you can’t rationalize that away. Feelings function separately from the intellect, and they must be respected, recognized, dealt with and processed.
The more you try to send your feelings away, the more they stay.
If you are successful in stuffing down emotions such as anger and frustration, you may not set boundaries to care for yourself. Or, there may be a huge build-up of anger and resentment that when eventually unleashed, is immoveable.
Many a divorced woman who finally leaves her marriage after 20 years will give you some version of this “push down your feelings” scenario. After spending two decades rationalizing their feelings away, not setting proper boundaries, not making requests, and not demanding to be heard, they burst. They explode into Codependent Depressive Rage, get divorced and have a midlife crisis. Meanwhile, their partner is left in a daze, saying, “What just happened?”
You have your feelings in order to do well and feel okay in life.
Don’t rationalize yourself out of them; don’t use your intellectual side to stuff down your emotional side. In the long run, you will only increase your depression, anxiety and anger. The bottom line is, you feel how you feel. Pay attention to your feelings and honor them.
Cherilynn Veland, MSW, LCSW, is a counselor and coach based in Chicago. She has been helping individuals, couples and families for more than 20 years. She is author of Stop Giving It Away, a new book about developing healthier relationships with yourself and others. The Stop Giving It Away movement aims to stop the detrimental level of self-sacrifice in which many women live and work. For more insight, get a copy of Stop Giving It Away.