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Awareness of and connection with our emotions can bring us many wonderful benefits: inner peace, support and friendship with ourselves, wealth of inner life, self-esteem, resistance to stress, creativity, understanding of ourselves and others, calm and adult behavior and self-expression… But still, many if not most people try to avoid their own emotions like the proverbial devil avoids incense, despite the fact that it causes them all sorts of problems in life. Why?

Of course, some emotions are unpleasant. But unpleasant emotions usually become significantly milder, and partly can even turn into pleasurable ones, once we stop fighting them, when we pay attention and acknowledge them. Also, when we learn to recognize when our emotions are responding to the past, not the present, we can approach them in a more relaxed and rational way, and resolve them more easily. So, the more aware we are of our emotions, the less control they have over us.

FD Roosevelt once said, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” But even fear is not to be feared, and especially not fear of one’s own emotions. We need to recognize it, understand where it comes from, is it realistic or not, and then act in accordance with what we find out. Here are some of the most common reasons why people avoid their own inner world:

 

    • childhood habits and bad models. Whether parents showed us how to avoid emotions by their own example, or they silenced, punished, or embarrassed us for expressing emotions, we often get the impression, as children, that emotions are something we’d better hide, suppress, not have – in other words, that emotions are something dangerous . The more we then get used to avoiding emotions, the more chaotic, unknown and unpredictable they will seem to us – and it’s in human nature to fear the unknown. What parents are afraid of, the child will especially fear. Thus, avoiding emotions is often a “hereditary” syndrome.

 

    • fear of discovering something bad about yourself. In part, this is a result of fear of the unknown, because the unknown usually seems worse, scarier, more unpredictable to us than the familiar. In part, it is the result of parental criticisms and punishments, as described above, which might have made us believe that our emotions are bad and that something inside us is bad and unacceptable. The feeling of being bad, of being wrong in our essence, is one we most try to avoid and defend ourselves against.  
      Yet, as a rule, we are not psychopaths and our emotions, if recognized and accepted, usually turn out to have positive intentions, even if we didn’t have much chance to learn to express them constructively. Suppressing and ignoring them since childhood is most often what makes them destructive. Children’s anger and defiance harbor a positive pursuit of freedom and the expressing of their own identities, while sadness might be called “thwarted love.” If anger is punished and sadness is ridiculed, they cannot be processed and released, but remain trapped in us, and, we might say,”fester”. Such emotions can over time be masked by arrogance, destruction, contempt, hatred and the like. It is easy for a well-meaning person to experience such emotions in themselves as bad and unacceptable. But if we allow ourselves to look deeper into them, as a rule, we will discover the original good intentions or natural needs.

 

    • fear of losing control and being overwhelmed, either internally, in your own mind, or in external behavior. This is essentially the fear that we will turn out to be weak, like children. Children’s emotions can be very intense, and if parents do not help us learn how to deal with them (but try to suppress them, as described above), we may subconsciously feel that we will again react as children, be overwhelmed and lose our sense of reality if emotions come out. Realistically, as adults, we usually have a good enough perspective, experience, rational mind, and the ability to detach, so that we can cope with our emotions, especially if we explore them and get used to them in a calm and safe environment. But some of us may not yet be aware of this.

 

    • fear of emerging unpleasant memories. Some of our early traumas are the result of childhood exaggeration and misunderstanding, and some can be the result of abuse, neglect and parental immaturity. In any case, we can fear bringing them into consciousness. This is understandable, but often it is enough to change your attitude towards emotions to make them much less scary and uncomfortable. If you adopt the view that remembering a trauma is not the same as the trauma itself, that feelings are not as intense and frightening when viewed with a time lag, and that intense feelings are not by themselves dangerous or overwhelming, then you do not have to be afraid of dealing with traumatic memories. (Note: I’m talking about healthy people here. If you have a diagnosed mental disorder, or suspect you might have one, seek a professional to help you deal with strong feelings.)

 

    • fear of becoming aware of our big mistakes and failures. Emotions make us aware of what we really want, what hurts us, what our core values ​​are. Recognizing that for many years we may have ignored or acted against these desires and values, can lead to feeling of strong disappointment with ourselves and self-criticism, especially if our self-esteem and self-compassion are already low. Regretting missed opportunities or past mistakes is a difficult feeling because it is something we can no longer change (unlike childish emotions). However, it is better to recognize that and redirect your life sooner than later, and later than never. You can use the regret as motivation to make the best of the rest of your life. Along the way, you also have the opportunity to practice compassion for yourself, forgiving yourself and positive internal dialogue.

 

  • fear of change. Every emotion is an urge for action and, once we separate adult from childish emotions, choices and opportunities that we are used to ignore and suppress may arise before us. Every change makes us face the unknown, so the fear of the unknown is automatically present. If it is a choice that our early family sabotaged, fear of punishment may also occur.
    Perhaps our family also taught us that we mustn’t make mistakes, that mistakes are unforgivable and unacceptable, and that the only way to be acceptable is to remain within the confines of the known and the safe. The new and the unknown always means making mistakes, especially in the beginning. Then we need to learn to change our attitude towards mistakes, understand them as part of learning and support ourselves as we make mistakes. (See: How To Overcome the Fear of Making Mistakes.)

 

Recognizing and taking responsibility for our feelings brings more peace and harmony not only to ourselves, but also to our environment, especially children and other close people. If we recognize when other people and situations are just triggering emotions from our past, but are not their cause, we are much less likely to react thoughtlessly, immaturely, and lash out at the people around us. We can also develop more internal strength and internal support for more meaningful endeavors than we are used to.

So, step boldly into the rainforest of your inner world and do not be afraid of dragons and monsters, they are just illusions anyway. I believe this will prove much safer, and even more enjoyable, than you expected. I bet you’ll find all sorts of hidden treasures, too.

 

Related Articles:

Intimacy With Your Own Feelings

Observing Feelings

Turn Emotional Pain Into Passion And Inspiration

 

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"Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate."

- C.G.Jung

Kosjenka Muk

I’m an Integrative Systemic Coaching trainer and special education teacher. I taught workshops and gave lectures in 10 countries, and helped hundreds of people in 20+ countries on 5 continents (on- and offline) find solutions for their emotional patterns. I wrote the book “Emotional Maturity In Everyday Life” and a related series of workbooks.

Some people ask me if I do bodywork such as massage too – sadly, the only type of massage I can do is rubbing salt into wounds.  😉

Just kidding. I’m actually very gentle. Most of the time.

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