Learning to Experience the Full Range of Emotions in a Healthy Way

As human beings, we often try to avoid feelings of sadness, anger or any emotion that we deem as negative.  It is very common to feel disappointed in ourselves when we go into one of these states, so we tend to exhibit denial and try to ignore what is happening. This is also the reason why many of us initially refuse to seek help and delay the potential progress. Personally, I spent years thinking that I was fine and did not need therapy. 

Pain and suffering are a part of life, as are joy and happiness. Being able to accept the pain allows you to face it, to move forward towards a brighter future. Pain demands to be felt, it will not leave and pretend it does not exist just because we ignore it. The healthiest thing we can do for our mental health is to let it transform us into better people, more resilient and more in touch with ourselves.

Sadness is an emotion, just like happiness is. These all come to us in the moment when we need to experience them and they serve a purpose in our lives. It is no use to try to be happy 100% of the time, since the beauty of life lies in being able to go through different moments, to not be stagnant. As cheesy as it may sound, you can’t have a rainbow without rain. We would not be able to value moments of sheer joy, if we did not know what sadness, boredom or anger felt like.

Sadness serves a purpose. We would not be able to comfort a grieving friend and show them empathy without having experienced sadness ourselves – these quiet times that have given us some of the best insight or motivated us to make a change. We need to understand that such emotions are not a bad thing to feel, they are just part of our journey as people. The key here is to stay away from cycles of depression, which make us focus on the bad times and make them central to our experience. I appreciate, though, this is easier said than done.

Accepting that we are not always going to be on top of everything will make our lives easier. It is unnecessary and unsustainable to hold ourselves to the impossible standard of not experiencing sadness at all. The moment we begin to understand that it is not about what we feel, but what we make of it, we will be on the right path. Now, what does it mean to experience an emotion in a healthy way? 

Emotions are there to help us grow. They allow us to react accordingly to what happens around us. It is not a weakness to feel emotions – it is the very essence of our human condition. Knowing this fact, we can begin by having an inner monologue that asks us to recognize what we feel, without judgement. Asking these will help: What are my physical sensations? What thoughts are going through my head? Which emotions can I name? Once recognized, it will be easier to see where they are coming from and what is actually causing them.

Now, with our emotions identified, we can try to figure out if the situation at hand may be triggering some past events, which could be why sadness and other emotions can feel overwhelming at times. Let’s allow ourselves to acknowledge the nature of the present situation and what our past events or trauma are making us feel. This process does not need to be speedy, we can take all the time we need. It can help speaking to a trusted friend or a welcoming therapist. Sometimes, writing down our feelings or expressing them in an art form or physical activity can also help.

The feelings will evolve and even pass with time. Whatever works for you as the healthy way to experience emotions is really fine! As long as you do this: feel them, experience them; do not bury them away because they can come back stronger. Be careful to give yourself a reasonable amount of time and pay the necessary attention to the matter so that the emotions serve their purpose in your life, and allow you to move on as a changed individual.

-Esme