Intolerance to negative emotions: what can we do?

In recent decades,happiness has risen as one of the main goals to achieve in life, becoming a kind of social obsession .However, paradoxically, many studies indicate that we are going in the opposite direction: we are increasingly unhappy and present more mental health problems compared to the generations that precede us.So what are we doing wrong?

In our society we understand happiness as the absence of any discomfort and we live surrounded byexcessively positive messages that sell us a sweetened and made-up reality .From motivational quotes on mugs to social media posts, everything suggests that unpleasantemotionsare bad and undesirable, and therefore we should (and can) stay away from them. 

We rarely stop to think that this ideal of happiness is unattainable , since it denies an inherent part of life itself: discomfort, suffering.We suffer when we lose a loved one, we feel pain when we embark on a project that fails, and we get distressed when someone close to us is going through a bad time... This is absolutely normal and healthy. 

And it is that unpleasant emotions are not only inevitable, but also all of them fulfill a specific function. Emotions exist because throughout evolution they have helped us to survive and they remain because they continue to help us. 

What are emotions for?

Any emotion, pleasant or unpleasant, has a messenger function.It gives us information about ourselves and about the needs that we present at all times, motivating us to action .Fear helps us to protect ourselvesand escape from danger, anger to defend ourselves, sadness to seek comfort and social support, disgust to push away and reject, joy encourages us to repeat what has caused us...

However, despite their usefulness, many times we decide not to listen to them or attend to them, either because we believe that they should not be there (andwe connect with the feeling of failure or guilt for not being in that ideal of permanent happiness), or because we it is scary to face something that we do not know or master, among other examples. 

What effects does emotional avoidance have?

Loss of valuable information

On the one hand, as we said, itentails the loss of very useful informationthat helps us to redirect ourselves in our lives.If we do not use our emotional world, it is as if we decided to walk blindfolded despite having an intact sense of sight.  

Emotions run high

Emotions do their job very well, so if we don't attend to themthey will take care of reappearing again and again to convey their messageto us , with increasing intensity. 

The difficulties become chronic

By not listening to emotions, we sweep problems under the rug, without solving what causes us discomfort.If I do not listen to the boredom and laziness that invade me every day when I go to work,I will not realize that I need new challenges, and I will not embark on the search for a new job or position, condemning myself to live that situation daily and permanently. 

bodily consequences 

Persistent emotional blockages can end up being reflected physically in pathologies such asirritable bowel syndromeorheadaches, among many other examples. 

What can we do?

If we decide to start accepting and properly regulating our emotions, these are some tips that we can start practicing: 

  1. Identify what you are feeling : is it a pleasant or unpleasant sensation?Does it imply a high or low energy?what label would you put on it?what intensity level is it?  
  2. Observe and connect with your bodily sensations: where are you noticing the emotion? In which areas of your body is it more evident?  
  3. Allow yourself to feel whatever you are feeling. To help yourself, you can repeat phrases such as "It's okay to feel this way, there's nothing wrong with it."  
  4. Vent your emotions .It's always a good idea to get your emotions out, whether it's talking to someone who listens to you properly, writing about it, or expressing yourself artistically.   
  5. Listen to the message that the emotion is trying to convey to you: what has made me feel this way?what need is there beneath that emotion?Have I ever felt similarly?  
  6. Help yourself .When you connect with your emotion, try to treat yourself well, speaking to yourself in a respectful way and doing something that progressively lessens your discomfort.Treat yourself as if you were a good friend who you want to comfort and help, trying not to hurt yourself anymore.For example, you can take a pleasant walk, telling yourself that everything will be fine and that when you are calmer you will be able to face and solve what is bothering you.   
  7. Take action .Once you identify the underlying need and you are more calm, propose to act in a manner consistent with your needs and values. 

Remember that learning to manage emotions properly is not always an easy job.If this process is too expensive for you, you can contact a specialist to guide you in this new challenge.