Difficult Emotions-Why it’s so Hard to Feel
Emotions can be tricky. They seem pretty straightforward and basic, but humans tend to make things more complicated than they need to be. Most of us grew up hearing various messages about emotions-from parents, friends, society-and we internalize those messages, whether we realize it or not. Most of these had to do with what emotions are acceptable based on your gender, age or what those around you were comfortable with. As we got older, some feelings were more at the surface and likely to be felt more than others. What might make one person feel sad, maybe made another person feel angry or anxious. Still another might feel nothing, or all those emotions combined. Luckily, none of them are “wrong”.
I have seen many clients that struggle with at least one emotion. What usually happens is a situation arises that would typically induce a certain feeling, but due to the difficulty accessing that feeling a completely different feeling comes up-making it hard to process and make sense of the situation. A good example of this is typically seen when a loved one passes away. Inevitably, you will see someone get angry. Maybe another person will be focused on getting all the arrangements done and get anxious about those details. Instead of feeling the sadness and allowing the grieving process to take place-their discomfort with the emotion compels them to do just about anything to feel it. If the sadness is not felt and allowed to be expressed, they will not heal from the loss.
So, how do we learn how to feel these emotions that are the hardest for us? The first step is recognizing the ones we have difficulty with. I became aware that sadness is my most difficult emotion when anxiety started popping up out of nowhere. My family started visiting more often after my mother became sick and I would get anxious for days before their visits. I could never really put my finger on what I was anxious about and would just tell myself I was worried about making sure they enjoyed themselves while they were in town, but it never alleviated the anxiety. I would do everything I could to remind myself I’m not in control of their visit, I would do mindfulness and breathing exercises, but to no avail. My stomach was a mess and the anxiety was making it difficult to think clearly. Finally, a friend asked me how I was coping with my mom’s diagnosis-instead of my usual, “Oh, I’m fine”, a flood of tears came. I was sad, yes I was afraid of what the future held, but I was mostly sad.
The ability to feel that sadness was not easy, but I became more comfortable with it and the anxiety was eventually gone. My fear of sadness wasn’t allowing me to process what I was experiencing-so there was no resolution. Processing our emotions-especially ones we have difficulty with-works best with another person. Someone to talk to and help you make sense of what you’re feeling. That person can be a friend, family member or mental health therapist. If you’re having a hard time experiencing certain emotions, one of our licensed professional psychotherapists can help. Please call Life Enhancement Counseling Services today at 407-443-8862 to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced Orlando counselors.