Stop Stuffing- There are No Bad Emotions

One of the biggest lies that society tells us is that some emotions are not ok.  We need to just get rid of these so-called bad emotions as soon as possible.

“Don’t cry”

“Don’t let him get to you!”

“Don’t waste your time being angry”

“Just get over it!”

“Toughen up!”

“Choose to be happy!”

There are No "Bad" Emotions | | negative emotions | controlling your feelings | stuffing emotions | healthy emotions | emotional health

Believing these lies has turned me into a chronic stuffer. The problem is that stuffed feelings don’t fizzle out. They just grow bigger and bigger until they explode in a big, messy, damaging, chaotic way. I’m walking around like an active volcano. Nobody knows precisely when the top will pop, but we all know it’s going to happen at any time!

Stuffed Emotions Lead to Explosions

In marriage it looks something like this. He didn’t fill the car up with gas on the way home, it’s ok I can do it at this ridiculously inconvenient time and be late to my meeting. (smoke starts leaking a bit) He said something very hurtful. It’s ok I’m sure he didn’t mean it that way I won’t say anything. (maybe the ground gives a little tremble) He didn’t call when he was running late AGAIN. It’s ok we all make mistakes. (smoke is getting a bit heavier now) He spent money we didn’t have on something we didn’t need. It’s ok, he earns the money so he should be able to do what he wants. (now the ground is really shaking). “OH MY GOODNESS WHY DO YOU NEED THE MUSIC SO FLIPPING LOUD. DON’T YOU CARE ABOUT MY EARDRUMS MUCH LESS MY SANITY!!! YOU KNOW I HATE LOUD MUSIC. YOU ARE SO BLEEPING INSENSITIVE. I CAN’T BELIEVE I MARRIED SUCH A SELFISH JERKFACE! WHY DO YOU HATE ME SO MUCH. I KNOW YOU DON’T CARE ABOUT ME AT ALL. YOU’RE JUST PRETENDING TO LOVE ME SO I WON’T LEAVE YOU!!”

Ok maybe it’s not always quite that dramatic, but you get the point.

Embrace the Negative Emotions

Well what if we learned to embrace those so-called bad emotions? What if as a society we could give each other permission to just feel what we feel without qualifiers or judgment? Research actually shows that there are a lot of negative consequences for stuffing emotions such as emotional pain and isolation, headaches, heart disease and cancer! There are also positive benefits to embracing our negative emotions. People who are able to recognize, communicate and deal with their negative emotions are more resilient in life, overall more positive people, and tend to live longer.

Now embracing negative emotions doesn’t mean that you wallow in self-pity, shame, doubt or fear. What it does mean is that you acknowledge the truth of how you feel, communicate it to others, then use it to propel you into positive solutions.

There are No "Bad" Emotions | | negative emotions | controlling your feelings | stuffing emotions | healthy emotions | emotional health
Feelings are natural. What you do with them is a choice. ~Mel Robbins

Recognizing Emotions

The first step in emotional health is being able to recognize what emotions you are feeling. Anger is probably the most easy to identify, but it is usually only a secondary emotion. Anger is usually a result of fear, shame, guilt, disappointment, etc. Being able to recognize the true underlying emotion is crucial to addressing it. In my example above not only was I feeling pent-up emotions from stressors I hadn’t discussed with my husband I was also feeling a deep sense of disrespect and fear. When my needs have been communicated (I REALLY hate loud noise to the point it feels like someone is pounding nails into my brain) and they are going unmet I feel disrespected. In combination with that I have a fear that disrespect=no love and no love means he is going to leave me. By addressing those real emotions I can sidestep the anger and simply talk to him about my hurt and fear.

Give Yourself Permission to Feel How You Feel

Remind yourself that there is no such thing as a wrong or bad emotion. Everyone has them. They are an essential part of our make-up as human beings. They serve an important function in helping us course correct our lives and protect us from dangerous or unhealthy situations. Give yourself permission to lean into the feelings, explore them, and understand them instead of running from them. Seek to understand the deeper emotions and situations that have led you to where you are. Have a good cry. Punch a pillow. Go do some target practice. Go for a walk. Write in your journal. Take time to allow yourself to just feel what you feel and be ok with it.

Communicating Emotions

Next you have to be able to communicate what you are feeling. This is the hard part for us chronic stuffers. By communicating our feelings we are opening ourselves up to all sorts of scary reactions. We may be judged, rejected, dismissed, etc. It is important to have a safe person or people who you can talk to about how you feel without fear of negative fallout. If the person who caused the hurt isn’t safe then reach out to a friend, family member, or support group for help. Even if a person isn’t currently super safe you can create a safe environment for emotional sharing, even if it’s something you’ve never done before. My husband and I were able to do this with a therapist who was trained in emotionally focused therapy. Of course it takes two to tango and sometimes you just have to accept that the person will never be safe and put up your boundaries.

Reframing Negatives Into Positives

Now it’s time to take those uncomfortable feelings and use them to actually help us feel better! All this takes is a little bit fo reframing and focusing on moving forward. Guilt or shame can become compassion and caring as we try to make restitution for our wrongs. Anger can become courage and determination as you work on correcting the injustice that you see. Fear can bring you focus and alertness in dealing with the problems you face. Boredom can lead to periods of creativity. Frustration can propel you to make a change. Jealousy can be turned into admiration and create feelings of respect and friendly competition.

Allow the Good and Bad to Co-exist

The number one thing I am still working on is allowing my negative feelings to coexist with my positive ones. Have you seen the movie Inside Out? If not go watch it now.  I’ll wait…… OK well at least watch this scene:

The thing that makes the memories beautiful is allowing the sadness (and any other bad emotion) we feel to propel us into greater connection. Ultimately the entire purpose of this life is for us to connect intimately with each other. To be part of a family, biological or one you create. We can’t connect without vulnerability. We can’t be known by others unless we know ourselves. We can’t know ourselves if we aren’t willing to feel the full range of emotions that is present in every day.

I would love to hear your thoughts on stuffing, “bad” emotions, and using negative feelings to propel us into positive directions. Comment below or join the community on Facebook.

The Muchness Mama | Slay the jabberwock | Rediscover wonderland | self care | self love

It’s OK to Cry Over Spilled Milk

We live in a world where the adage “don’t cry over spilled milk” is well-known and religiously lived by. Put on your pretty smile, hold back those tears, and make sure the world knows that your life is perfect. Whether it be Facebook, Pinterest, or Instagram we all put forth these beautiful perfect lives for everyone to ooohh and aaahh over while we hide the truth behind closed doors.

It's OK to Cry over Spilled Milk | | stuffing your feelings is not healthy

We stuff our feelings, and then feel guilty for ever feeling them in the first place. Well I’m here to give you permission to cry over spilled milk, especially when it is the third cup to be spilled during one meal. Sometimes life is hard and the little things are the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Sometimes a good cry, a listening ear, and an understanding shoulder are exactly what we need.

You see I used to be a chronic stuffer of feelings. I was always cheerful. I was fine. Other people mattered. I didn’t. If my husband wanted to take a family trip to Home Depot, but I was exhausted, I put on my smile and gritted my teeth and was miserable for the next two hours. He never knew. He thought I was enjoying it as much as he was. When he wanted to invite friends over at the last-minute instead of telling him “I’ve had a long hard day and don’t want to entertain” I would simply ask “What should I make for dinner?” When people asked me for favors I always said yes, ALWAYS, even if it was terribly inconvenient or completely ruined my plans. I was building up mountains of resentments every time my needs went unmet, and my poor husband had no idea. He was completely blindsided when I would explode once in a blue moon and just overflow with everything that I had been stuffing down for months, including things that weren’t even remotely his fault. Unspoken expectations are premeditated resentments, and boy did I have a lot of them!

Unspoken expectations are premeditated resentments | | Stuffing your feelings is not healthy

As my frustration and complete burnout from the daily duties of being a mom would overwhelm me I would turn inward. I would eat myself up with mom guilt because I shouldn’t feel this way. The world tells us that we chose this and should love every moment because they grow so fast. I love my kids dearly, and I will do anything for them, but I don’t love changing the 6th poopy diaper for the day, wiping up the tenth cup of spilled milk, dealing with the 1-year-old who once again bit his brother, or having to help referee the three thousandth fight. Instead of getting it out and letting it go I was letting it build up into a boiling pit of lava in my gut. Then a simple whine would set me off and I would be roaring at the children that they must hate me to treat me so horribly and shut myself in my room for a few hours.

Stuffing emotions isn’t healthy. It isn’t right. I don’t care what society says. Life is hard, spilled milk sucks, and it’s ok to cry about it! I have made a commitment to myself to be honest. Now this doesn’t mean I whine and complain all the time and turn into a negative Nelly. That isn’t healthy either. What it means is when my husband proposes a family trip to Home Depot I say “Hun I’m really just too tired and need a break right now.” When I’m having a bad day with the kids I talk to my mom or good friends about my frustrations. I attend a weekly women’s group where we focus on how to truly address and heal our feelings as well as just share with each other and get everything out in the open. I’ve attended Emotionally Focused Therapy sessions with my husband so that we could learn to connect intimately about our feelings without feeling threatened or defensive. I’ve started being honest with my kids and calmly telling them how much their actions hurt my feelings and asking them respectfully to do something different. When people at church or the grocery store ask me how I’m feeling instead of saying “Wonderful!” with a huge smile I give myself permission to say “tired, but doing ok.” When a friend asks me to babysit and it’s just not a good day I’ve learned to say “I’m sorry, but I’ve got other plans.”

Lead me, guide me parenting | |

I’m not perfect, I still catch myself stuffing and then exploding. I’m a work in progress, but that’s ok. I can feel my emotional health getting better. I don’t have anywhere near as many resentments towards my husband or others because I don’t have as many unspoken expectations. I’m learning to let go of the mom guilt over not being perfectly cheerful all the time and accept my own full range of emotions. This gives me the power to be more accepting of the emotions of others, especially my own children. I’m learning to accept and even ask for help BEFORE I get burned out and want to explode.

It’s OK to cry over spilled milk. It’s ok to feel. It’s ok to expect love and understanding when we are struggling. It’s ok to seek out help and support because life is hard. You don’t have to do this alone.

What are you doing to create healthy emotional boundaries in your life? Have you been guilty of chronic emotional stuffing like me? What can we do as a society to make emotions more acceptable?