You’re meant to feel your feelings. Your feelings matter. The more you suppress your emotions (or feelings), the more you stress….here’s a perspective with a mindfulness approach to help you find acceptance for your emotions (the good & the bad) so that you can find more peace & happiness in your life.
Do you run away from your emotions? Are you finding it hard or difficult to accept negative or uncomfortable feelings? Do you mask your unpleasant emotions with positivity or behavior that represents “good vibes only?”
If so, what if I told you that by continuing to suppress your dark emotions so that you can only feel the light & happy ones, you are actually doing yourself more harm in the long run?
What if the way to get out or away from negative emotions was to go through them? What if you actually felt your feelings so that you can explore them without judging them?
Here I’ll share how mindfulness can help you to find true inner acceptance for ALL emotions, the good & the bad. Keep reading—
To Feel or Not To Feel…
In life, unpleasant emotions are bound to come up. It’s like the packaged deal to being a human. How to deal with those emotions skillfully so that it reduces suffering is entirely up to you.
How do you approach unpleasant or uncomfortable emotions?
When you face the emotion, you surrender and you overcome. When you run from the emotion, you succumb to fear, which traps you & leaves you in a repetitive cycle of self destruction.
“Fight your fears and you’ll be in battle forever. Face your fears and you’ll be free forever.” — Lucas Jonkman
We feel sad. We feel happy. We feel scared. We feel excited. We feel all sorts of emotions. It’s the way we’re designed. We’re constantly ebbing & flowing. Feeling good one day. Feeling not so good another. It’s just how emotions & how being a human works.
We’re meant to feel. And we’re meant to feel ALL of our feelings. The issue though is that many of us accept the “good” emotions but not the “bad” ones. When the emotions start to make us feel uncomfortable, we flight, fight, or freeze.
What many of us need to understand though is we aren’t meant to always & only feel positive or experience happy emotions. That’s unrealistic. All emotions matter. Yet, what many of us strive for is the unachievable…to try and bypass the negative or uncomfortable emotions.
You can run. You can’t hide
We want to skip over the ‘bad’ stuff to only just feel the good. So when we are feeling sad, we just want to feel happy. If we’re feeling fear, we want to experience no fear, if we’re in pain, we want to feel no pain. So we run, or mask, or hide, or cry, or complain. We do anything & everything but feel what’s happening here & now, if it’s unpleasant…
And that’s when the conflict arises between what’s happening in the moment (current emotional state) & what our mind is telling us should be happening right now (desired emotional state).
We suppress the feeling, or distract ourselves, reframe our thoughts, or engage in positive thinking without really allowing ourselves to feel the feeling first, which can be dangerous.
So like I said, we tend to run away from ourselves. 🏃🏽♂️💨 but the thing is…we can’t hide. We need to find acceptance for the ways we can feel. Mindfulness can support us in doing that.
Accept your Mind(fulness)
“Acceptance means perceiving your experience and simply acknowledging it rather than judging it as good or bad.”
Mindfulness allows for us to notice and to acknowledge our moment to moment realities. And so when it comes to our feelings, both good & bad, mindfulness helps us to see our feelings, to be with them, to honor them, to accept them, and to let them go skillfully.
By acknowledging our feelings, thoughts or sensations and then going into them, our experience changes. Even with physical pain, try experimenting by actually feeling what you go through.
Challenge: Control Your Thoughts
This is a challenge that is asking of you to control your thoughts for just 2 minutes. You are allowed to think of everything you want, except a white bear. Every time you do think of a white bear, & you notice it’s happening, try your hardest to suppress every thought of the white bear.”
So when you are ready, set a timer for 2 minutes and give yourself this moment to take on this challenge. Afterwards, reflect on your experience. How did it go? Was it easy? Hard?
If you’re like most ppl who do this challenge, you may have noticed that it’s very difficult to suppress the thoughts of the white bear. This is called rebound effect. We want to get rid of the thoughts and what ends up happening is we think about it more.
Acceptance not Avoidance
So if you did the challenge above, you probably will have noticed how difficult it was to suppress the thoughts of the white bear…
The same concept applies to very serious (dramatic or negative) thoughts. Like for instance, when we are feeling an emotion that’s not joy or happiness—we try to get rid of the feelings but we quickly come to find that they don’t quite go away that easily.
This also happens in other situations too. Ever tried your hardest to fall asleep? You find that you instead end up staying awake for many hours. Also, if you ever tried really hard to lose weight, you may notice that it tends to go the opposite direction and you instead gain weight.
This is where acceptance comes in.
Acceptance is the opposite of avoidance. It’s the willingness to experience what is happening in the present moment. Applying mindfulness into this is allowing yourself to fully experience what you are going through right here, right now without judging it or trying to change it or make it go away.
And now this idea of acceptance isn’t always as easy as it sounds, right?
If you’ve ever tried to sit with your feelings, you may notice how difficult it can seem to be sometimes. You may notice that your feelings can sometimes intensify. And so when that happens, what we do is we try to control the situation and get ourselves away from the feeling.
Mindfulness is telling us to instead work through it. Allow the feelings to be there. Accept the feelings to be there. Allow them to rise & watch as they soon fade away.
Resisting Pleasant Moments
Now let’s get back to those pleasant moments we experience because those too can be dealt with non acceptance and create problems for ourselves.
Ofcourse during pleasant situations, it’s less difficult to deal with. The conflict though often comes up when we try to hold on to the situation because we don’t want the moment to pass. We attach ourselves to it because we feel like it won’t last forever. We get in our head & start thinking all sorts of things like how upsetting it is that this won’t last forever. Or we may find ourselves caught up in thoughts, wishing we can feel this type of happiness forever. This behavior keeps us trapped in thinking mode, which ironically takes us away from the moment.
Back To Mindfulness
Mindfulness helps us to see & accept that nothing in life lasts forever. Everything fades. And so when we come to realize & accept this, we are able to experience everything instead of avoiding. We end up flowing with life.
All in all, you need to know and accept where you are right here, right now before you can begin working out how to get to where you want to be. If you don’t acknowledge where you are and what’s currently happening, you can’t move on appropriately from that point.
Choose acceptance & then you free yourself.
Here are some ways you can try to cultivate acceptance:
- Gently state the label of the experience you aren’t accepting. For example, if you’re not accepting that you’re sad, state in your mind, to yourself, ‘I’m feeling sad at the moment… I’m feeling sad.’ In this way, you begin to acknowledge your feeling.
- Notice which part of your body feels tense and imagine your breath going into and out of the area of tightness. As you breathe in and out, say to yourself, ‘It’s okay. It’s already here… It’s already here.’
- Consider how much you accept or acknowledge your current thoughts/feelings/sensation on a scale of 1 to 10. Ask yourself what you need to do to increase your acceptance by 1, and then do it as best you can.
- Become really curious about your experience. Consider: ‘Where did this feeling come from? Where do I feel it? What’s interesting about it?’ In this way, the curiosity leads you to a little more acceptance.
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