Fear, anger, jealousy, loneliness – these aren’t emotions people generally want to feel. But under most circumstances, paying attention to and feeling the full expression of an emotion is better than pushing it away or distracting yourself from it.
Let’s imagine a scenario: It’s Friday night and you send a text to the person you’ve been dating asking if they would like to go out. An hour goes by and they haven’t responded. You begin to feel a little lonely and then your mind starts to wander to an image of them out with someone else.
You don’t like the way you are feeling so you find a friend to text, a show to watch, or some ice cream to eat. What happened to that emotion? Sometimes your distraction is successful and you are able to forget for a while. But for many people, that unexpressed feeling transforms into a low-grade anxiety that leaves you feeling uneasy for the rest of the night and maybe longer.
So what’s the alternative? What if you just felt it? Lean into the feeling. Be curious about what is underneath it. Is there a fear that no one cares for you? Is there the thought that you may be lonely forever? Embrace the layers of emotion.
Emotions are designed to urge you to action and to dissipate once that purpose is served. Rarely will an emotion, deeply felt, remain in full-force for more than several minutes. Perhaps in feeling and being curious about your emotions, you can begin to realize that:
you are not your emotions.
They are experiences passing through you. This idea can seem nebulous and counterintuitive, but there are several practices to help with the process. This article on a mindful approach to emotions illustrates one of these practices.