The video below explains some of the consequences that arise when we aren’t careful about how we manage our emotions and other negative experiences, and how the way we react to our emotions can cause us to suffer:
In his book, The Worry Cure, Robert Leahy provides a flow chart that summarizes the various ways we can deal with our emotions and the results are tend to follow. The chart highlights undesired results that tend to arise when we try to avoid our emotions in various ways, or when we invalidate our emotions by telling ourselves that they are wrong.
Leahy notes that dealing with our unpleasant emotions by trying to avoid or suppress them “reflects the belief that you cannot handle emotions, that emotions will overwhelm you, and that your emotions do not make sense.” This leads to negative consequences such as worrying and ruminating and more unpleasant emotions.
People who engage in these ways of dealing with their emotions tend to “feel they have less control over their emotions in a display less acceptance of their feelings, and they blame other people for their feelings.” When emotions feel like they are beyond your control, they become more difficult to tolerate and seem more overwhelming.
The chart also shows that when we don’t fight our emotions, and are able to see our emotions as normal, we can then engage in more positive ways of interacting with our emotions such as accepting, expressing, validating and learning from them, all of which are ways of bringing mindfulness to our emotional experience. These positive ways of handling difficult emotions makes these emotions manageable, and allows us to experience them without becoming distressed and overwhelmed.
Everybody experiences unpleasant emotions. It’s a natural part of our existence. The good news is that there are ways we can interact with these emotions that make them manageable, and allow us to experience them as a normal part of living, rather than as overwhelming burden from which we need to escape.