This might be a funny thing for a psych to say… but I never used to be a big fan of emotions.
I’m pretty happy with positive feelings like happiness or excitement, but much less keen on feeling sad or anxious or angry. As I’m not naturally prone to huge emotional swings, I got away with this for a long time. However, the more I learn about emotions and the role that they play in my life, the more respect I have for them.
AND the more appreciation I have for the so called “bad” emotions!
There are some emotions that we love and will do almost anything to generate. And others… let’s just say that we don’t like these quite so much. There may even be a few emotions that you would rather avoid at all costs.
But at the end of the day, emotions are a message…
The postman knocks on your door to drop off the message, but because we know that we don’t like what’s inside the envelope (an unpleasant emotion), we lock the door and hide inside our homes.
But what happens when we don’t open the door?
Well firstly, this postman is a special kind of postman, in that he is very, very persistent! He will stay at your door for as long as it takes to deliver the message and you may need to engage in more and more creative ways to avoid him. Not only will this take a huge amount of effort on your part, but your means of avoiding the postman may not be very healthy, and by channeling all of our efforts into avoiding the postman, we miss the most important part, the message in the letter!
If we could learn to tolerate unpleasant emotions, we could open the door, take the letter and see what the message is.
Your letter may contain fear, alerting you to danger, prompting you to protect yourself or to exercise caution (crossing a road, meeting a stranger).
Your letter may contain anxiety, which may indicate that things you value or are important to you (for example an upcoming test, going to a job interview or on a date, being accepted by your peers, asking a new friend to catch up on the weekend). If you didn’t care about these things, you wouldn’t feel anxious. Anxiety is a normal part of life and not caring about anything would be a terrible way to live.
Your letter may contain anger, which may alert you that your boundaries have been breached (e.g. someone shared information that you told them in confidence), or that someone has treated you in a manner you don’t like (e.g. bullying). This can motivate us towards taking helpful action to rectify the situation.
Even though it might be scary, open the door, meet the postman and take the message.
– Jessica Lethbridge, PLC Perth Senior School Psychologist