30 Jul Good News: There’s No Such Thing As “Bad” Feelings
Have you ever screwed up in your relationship, or have done something that you immediately felt terrible about? Perhaps your stomach started doing backflips and you were filled with a sense of dread, anxiety, and maybe even anger or shame. However you choose to describe the feeling, it probably didn’t feel awesome.
Many folks might immediately label these feelings as, “bad.” We hear this a lot in our therapy work with clients, and our response is almost always the same:
Feelings aren’t good or bad—they just are.
These feelings? They’re distinctly uncomfortable. Not bad, wrong, or inappropriate, but simply not comfortable and an important aspect of being human. Feelings give us information that’s impossible to perceive in any other way than with judgment. However, we can only use this valuable information when we stop pushing them away, ignoring them, or becoming numb to them.
To help the difficult feelings feel better, people sometimes turn to the blame game, pointing a finger at someone else for what happened. People often place blame on others to ease the pain in the moment, but it hardly works in the long run. In addition to blame, we often want to stop the uncomfortable feeling right away and move on to a better-feeling one, searching for a quick fix to our feelings.
Just feel it
Whether it’s distracting, minimizing, or turning our backs and sprinting away from uneasy feelings, this could be causing more suffering. Instead, just feel your feelings. It may feel a little overwhelming at first, to feel them all at once, because it might feel too heavy. However, you can give yourself the permission to feel them, do what you need to do, wallow for a while and then move on.
It can be all too easy to pretend something didn’t happen, or even ignore our feelings entirely. However, this doesn’t serve us well in the future because our feelings need to move through us. We can sit in the discomfort of an unpleasant feeling and feel our way through it, staring our feelings directly in the eye in the name of being able to move on.
Feelings can also give us clues about our current physical and emotional well-being. They offer us insight into what feelings bring us closer to, or further away from joy, helping us spot problems before they happen. Feelings can also help provide us with motivation—to make a change, try something new, or make a decision. They can be a helpful “heads up” for figuring out our lives.
Keep in mind, they don’t always give us answers. We need our cognitive skills for understanding what feelings mean, and to do this, we need to first register what the feeling is so that we can feel it fully. Once we do this, then we can get to the business of figuring out what this clue means.
The good or bad measuring stick
Many people grow up judging our emotions as either “good” or “bad.” Maybe it looks a lot like this:
Think about some of the labels you’ve applied to feelings in the past. Perhaps you could add some to this list.
Instead, celebrate your feelings
Here’s a fresh take on how to look at your feelings, no matter what they are: your feelings are proof that you have feelings and that you’re a feeling person! That’s fantastic! It means you’re present, you’re here and living out a rich human experience. Life as a human means that we get to experience a full spectrum of emotion, not just good and bad emotions. Sure, some of these sentiments will feel more uncomfortable than others, but once you recognize this simple truth, it can be easier to move on.
Therapy isn’t about fixing feelings
When you tap into the power of your emotional system and put the information to proper use, this can give you an advantage when it comes to making decisions. Many people see their emotions as something they have to control or keep in check, rather than something they could capitalize on to strengthen their lives.
Visiting a therapist isn’t about helping clients to stop feeling their feelings, learning how to manage them, or going through emotions previously described as “bad” or “wrong.” Instead, consider therapy as a practical, judgment-free space to help people feel safe enough to allow the feelings to pop up and incorporate the less comfortable feelings. As therapists, we’re not here to “fix” anyone, but rather, set up a space to just feel and explore feelings.
Amp up your emotional intelligence
Using your feelings as a learning opportunity is the key to making better life choices. What would happen if you decided to see your feelings as information? What might that change in your life?
The next time you notice an uncomfortable or distressing feeling knocking on your door, try pivoting from thinking, “this is bad” to “this feeling is uncomfortable,” and notice what happens to your demeanor and interactions with others.
Are you ready to dig into your feelings and learn the clues they might be offering you to help live your best life? We’d love to hear more! Get in touch and book an appointment here.
Written by Bliss therapist Kelly McDonnell-Arnold. Learn more about Kelly and get her secret “Tips From the Couch” here.
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