Labeling emotions as good or bad could be doing ourselves a disservice…
Feel Your Feelings
Did you know that we call our emotions ‘feelings’ because we feel them in our bodies? We might notice a tightness in our chest that tells us we are anxious or a rock in our stomach that tells us we are sad. One of our focuses in CBT is learning to notice how our emotions feel in our bodies and to use these body signals to help us understand our experience of something.
We experience a wide range of emotions. Oftentimes we label our feelings “good” or “bad.” Happy, excited, peaceful and content might be considered good feelings while anger, anxiety and sadness are considered bad.
These labels can be unhelpful in how we relate to these emotions. We may feel pressure to move from the “bad” and get back to the “good. “ Often times we can become impatient with our “bad” feelings. We don’t like how they slow us down or make us feel unwell.
None of these things in and of themselves are bad for us, but they may become unhelpful if we rely on them to get us from the bad to the good too often!
What if instead of using the label “bad” for our feelings we consider them “difficult” or “uncomfortable.”
What if these feelings are there for a reason?
I wonder how we can listen and honour them instead of running away from them. I wonder if we can get curious about these feelings and what they might be trying to tell us?
Should We Eliminate “Bad Feelings”?
As I am writing this post, my kids have recently returned to online learning for the 3rd time during the COVID-19 Pandemic. When this was announced I noticed some difficult feelings. I worry about how this will impact my kids. Like many other parents I am again balancing child care and my work day and wondering how I will get everything done.
If I label these feelings as “bad”, my first response is to eliminate these feelings. If I work harder and faster could I make them go away? I consider what activities I might create for my kids to keep them busy – thinking that if I solve the problem these bad feelings will go away and I can get back to being happy. However, when I can pause and consider the impact of this I notice that I have actually added to my stress level by giving myself a new ‘to-do’ list.
What if instead I label these feelings as “difficult” and allow them to be there? I can name them and notice where I am feeling them in my body. What if I get curious about why these feelings are there and what they might be telling me? Is it possible that these difficult feelings are a normal response to a difficult situation? Yes, it’s a normal response for a caring parent to worry about their children’s schooling and mental health. These feelings are reminding me to watch out for and protect my children this creates a feeling of gratitude for the feeling even though it is difficult. Taking time to notice our difficult feelings and the messages they bring are important to our mental health. This creates a space to honour these feelings and the things that they are teaching us.