Do you avoid conflicts? Do you find it hard to keep a conversation when uncomfortable? Do you prefer work to intimacy?
All of these are defenses against emotions. Sometimes life can be overwhelming and cause detachment from our feelings.
When I feel stressed, I have a greater need for socializing. I linger on social media, go out, keep myself busy. Or I work 10 hours a day or binge TV shows. It lasts for days until I feel totally exhausted and overwhelmed. Then I slow down and finally try reconnecting with myself.
It’s okay to avoid emotions now and then, but it’s not healthy in the long run.
Why does it happen?
Repressing emotions comes from early childhood. Our parents and society taught us what isn’t permissible to experience. For example, boys are told not to cry and act strong. And girls are thought to be kind and nice. You’ve probably heard Don’t cry! You are a big boy or Act nice! Girls don’t yell.
We behave in a way that society expects us. As kids, we did our best to fit categories like a ‘good boy’ or ‘girl.’
We live in a culture where expressing emotions is linked to weak people. We are told to have control over our feelings and to repress emotions that are described as negative. This includes strong emotions like:
Even if nobody didn’t specifically invalidate your emotional experience, society still might’ve discouraged you from expressing intense emotions freely. As a result, you began to think of sadness, anger, and disappointment as emotions you shouldn’t have or shouldn’t acknowledge to anyone.
How to cope with it?
Self-observation is the key to understanding our emotional well-being.
People who aren’t in touch with their feelings usually have a problem with insomnia. And why is that? When we finish with work and daily errands, we finally catch up with feelings that might have been too ashamed or harassed to emerge during the day. We feel pressure, anxiety, and a cocktail of emotions that were repressed before.
To be in tune with my emotional wellbeing I made journaling a habit. Before I go to sleep, I write about the main events that happened during the day, what I feel about it, and what I’ll do next. It helps me to recognize my emotions, to name them, and to deal with them.
A mood chart can also be helpful, especially in identifying subtle emotions like disgust, boredom, doubt, hesitant and similar.
We experience a range of emotions every day. We are often not in tune with ourselves and don’t pay attention to what we feel. It can lead to many mental and physical illnesses.
Learning how to cope with our feelings is crucial to maintaining mental health. Emotions are powerful indicators of our needs, goals, and desires. When we are in tune with our emotions, we can grow in a healthy way. Learning how to recognize and cope with our emotions can also help us communicate better, make better life choices, and to ask for what we need.