Permission to Feel
“Into each life some rain must fall.” -Ella Fitzgerald
As much as I am completely on board with positive psychology and the spiritual concept that the positive vibes you put out in the world return to you, there come times when life hands you a shitty situation and you’re going to feel shitty about it. This is a blog about shitty feelings.
I went to an excellent talk last week given by two child psychologists from Anchor Psychological Services on Emotion Coaching with our kids. Boiling a three hour talk down to a paragraph, in essence, they said that we as humans need emotions or we would have evolved out of them by now. Each emotion shows a need: sadness for comfort, fear for safety, anger for a boundary or to be heard, and shame has a need for reassurance of self. They also said that by avoiding our negative emotions there is a risk of maladaptive coping strategies like emotional eating, self-harm, substance abuse, depression, or anxiety.
Today, I am angry because of an injustice towards my daughter at school yesterday. I also have some sadness for her pain, and some shame around how she chose to react. If I listen to what society says is proper for a lady… I don’t get to puff up and yell and demand justice. At best, women are allowed to cry about it—that’s much more socially acceptable. But in all reality, in proper society, people would rather I just bury the shitty feelings, slap a smile on my face, and let it fester inside of me clogging up my arteries.
When I briefly asked about anger on my Facebook profile, most women said they do something physical like run or clean the house, many of them journal about their feelings and some of them vent it out with a friend. I also received some well-meaning advice through private messages to question if I should even bother being angry. Does the situation really matter? While I know these lovely ladies were trying to make things better by looking for the silver lining, it was still asking me to dismiss my feelings… and I kinda like my arteries to stay clear, thank you very much.
I am not suggesting we all be in a rage for months on end or fall into the depths of despair, but I am suggesting that we give ourselves permission to feel our feelings, to deal with our feelings, and to move on. Because, I can assure you that, at some point, another situation and another feeling will show up. I do wish all of us the more positive emotions more often, but this is life, and we are here to discern the difference between light and dark and joy and pain. One doesn’t exist without the other.
Thanks to having taken the class last week, I emotion coached my daughter (though I have a feeling I have more work to do there). Then for my own self-care, I voiced my boundary to the school, I had a good ranting session with my friends, I had some comforting hugs from my husband, and I let myself be vulnerable and have my oldest daughter reassure me that I am a good mother.
I can’t fix the injustice but at least I’m not burying mine or my daughter’s feelings. This is self-care my friends: Emotions need to be in motion.
Leave me a comment about what you think of the need for all emotions, good and bad.