© Paul Wilson for Auckland Therapy Blog, 19 Apr 2018
In my last post, I touched on the issue of limiting the feeling of ‘bad’ emotions. However, what about the opposite issue: when you feel an emotion so much and so often that your wellbeing is impacted?
Why do some emotions get stronger and stuck on repeat? Here are three factors to consider that might make all the difference.
The job of emotions is to alert us to an issue that affects our well-being and needs our attention. If we don’t allow an emotion to surface into consciousness and be truly felt and explored, the message will keep getting sent and often becomes more insistent. We can delay our emotions for a while (it’s not always the right time or place to feel them) but they will recur until we process them. In short, what we resist not only persists, but grows in size.
An emotion can also repeat because we’re expressing a secondary ‘cover’ emotion and not the true underlying one. This is often because our upbringing convinced us that certain emotions are unacceptable in some way. For example, our family might have convinced us that anger is too destructive so we feel fear or sadness instead. Or vulnerability might feel shameful to us, so we get angry instead. While expressing the secondary emotion offers temporary relief, the primary emotion remains and drives further cycles.
Our emotions also serve an external role in communicating our internal state to others around us. That’s why our emotions show on our face, even though we sometime wish they didn’t. Our emotions need to be received, both by us and those who matter to us. It’s not always enough to feel an important emotion privately. We are social beings and need to validated and understood by an emotionally receptive witness who cares about us.
When we truly allow the deeper emotional message into our being and share that experience with the right person, then the cycle of emotional expression can finally complete.