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The Importance Of Feeling Your Feelings

There are many reasons why people might suppress their emotions. Suppressing emotions is a common practice that can be attributed to various factors, from learned behavior in childhood to the demands of a busy and challenging environment. Diamond Thaxton, a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor, highlights how emotional suppression may stem from negative reactions to emotions during early development or external pressures that make it convenient to avoid feeling. However, prioritizing emotional authenticity is crucial, as the benefits of acknowledging and understanding your feelings far outweigh the short-term relief of suppressing them.


Allowing yourself to feel your emotions is a pivotal step towards self-awareness. Different things can cause the same feeling in different people. For example, someone might feel fear when in an enclosed space, while someone else may feel fear with an impending deadline. In addition, the same event could cause different feelings in different people.


A deadline is something that can cause the feeling of fear in some people, while a deadline causes excitement and motivation in another person. By feeling your feelings, you gain a better understanding of who you are and where your comfort zone may be. You can also identify patterns of feelings, situations, and behaviors. 


Redefining Resilience:

After you identify some of your feelings and what causes them, you can build resilience. The American Psychological Association defines resilience as “the process and outcome of successfully adapting to difficult or challenging life experiences.” With these difficult or challenging life experiences may come negative feelings such as anger or sadness. Maybe there is a specific recurring feeling caused by a problem that can be solved.


When you feel the feeling, you can then make the informed decision on which step to take next to navigate the challenge that may be causing this feeling. It may be an action you can take, or a pattern you need to change, or it may be out of your control. Because it’s a process, feeling your feelings is not contrary to resilience, but a step on the path to resilience. 


Interpersonal Advantages:

“Communication In the Real World,” a textbook published by the University of Minnesota explains how feeling your feelings can have positive impacts on your relationships. The name of the author was removed at the request of the publisher. The book states, “Our social bonds are enhanced through emotion sharing because the support we receive from our relational partners increases our sense of closeness and interdependence.” When you feel and are able to authentically express your emotions, the other party will feel more comfortable doing the same. This can then make both parties feel more seen and heard.


However, the book also discusses the idea of emotional contagion(Figure 1). Emotional contagion can be a good thing with positive emotions, but can be unwanted when it comes to positive emotion. Feeling your feelings can still help in a situation like this. If you feel your feelings privately, and you can then decide to wait until you’re less emotional to communicate. When you’ve felt your emotions, you will therefore not be driven by them, and be thinking more rationally, thus preventing negative emotional contagion and leaving more room for positive emotional contagion, understanding, actionable items, and resolution. 


Figure 1: Emotions Can Transfer

Emotional contagion is when one emotion is transferred to another. 

Consequences Of Repression:

Repressing emotions have a number of mental, physiological, and situational effects. While there is research that shows emotional suppression may be helpful in certain scenarios (such as first responders responding to traumatic emergencies), repression may do more harm than good in other situations. One study showed that emotional suppression lead to increased sympathetic activation of the cardiovascular system and impaired memory and ability to complete cognitive tasks. Unaddressed emotions may lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as self-isolation or impulsive behavior. 


Outlets For Emotion:

Feeling your feelings can lead you to healthier ways to let the emotion out. Some of these outlets naturally exist within your body - for example, if an emotion makes you feel like crying, listen to your body and let yourself cry. Other examples of healthy outlets that may need to co-occur with feeling your feelings are exercise, meditation, journaling, and talking out loud. 


Edited by: Matsoarelo Makuke

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