Why Do We Label Our Emotions Judgmentally?
Are anger and sadness really bad emotions? Are joy and brave really the “right” emotions? Why must we label our emotions so judgmentally? Emotions are just that, emotions. They are feelings and they are what they are. The emotions we have may make us feel bad physically, but when we sit with them and allow them, that physical manifestation doesn’t last that long. Often that physical manifestation that hurts comes as we fight the feeling instead of allowing it. We think we don’t want to feel sad or angry. Most of us have been programmed to think those are bad feelings. Yes, some feelings deplete our energy and others renew it. As humans, we were made to experience all of the emotions within possibility. We are not meant to be here and only ever feel high vibrational states such as happy and brave. It is within our human capacity to experience sadness and anger as well. We were made this way because we cannot control everything around us. These emotions are meant to help us through the challenges. Allowing ourselves to feel our emotions instead of running away, avoiding, stuffing down, or blaming is the only way to get through them and develop compassion. We just have to keep reminding ourselves of this.
There was a time recently that I was really upset about being a caretaker for my mother in law. Every time I had to do something for her, I would find myself feeling so “crunchy” about it. I let this story about how “I shouldn’t have to do all of this for her” run in my head. It would make me impatient with her. I would get snippy with my responses to her repetitive questions and stories. There was a time that I felt super resentful that this was always my “job.” Thank goodness my mindfulness kicked in and I noticed all of this. I was able to sit with the resentment and frustration of it all. Then I found compassion for myself and then for her as well. This was a daily practice for a bit. It didn’t change overnight. Once I found the compassion for her, I was able to see my love for her again and I began thinking about how much I love her and what a good person she is. I was able to transform my “job” into an act of love without telling stories in my head about how unfair it was. I would smile and think about how she deserves to be loved and I am so lucky that I get to “love” her. Why shouldn’t I be the one taking care of her. She needs care. I am here. I am capable. I do love her. Why shouldn’t I do it?
It was this mindful sitting with the anger, resentment, and frustration that led me to a loving state! Not avoiding, quitting, running away, or blaming. The sitting with the discomfort and letting it be there and run its course. It was not “easy” but it was easier than continuing to be angry and frustrated with the situation that was happening daily. It made my journey with her happier. It built up some resilience and compassion within me.
Do some emotions cause us to feel badly, while others cause us to feel good? Yes. This does not make them bad or wrong emotions. It just means we need to slow down, sit with them, and find compassion. When a small child is experiencing one of the depleting emotions, our first instinct is to ask, “What’s wrong?” But then typically, we sit and listen and let them process. Sometimes this ends well and other times it doesn’t quite get resolved. This is a daily practice. I would like to offer a suggestion to approach this situation that over time will help change the reputation that feeling depleting emotions such as sad, angry, frustrated, etc. is wrong or bad. When you see that a child or even an adult is struggling with some emotions, try asking, “What’s on your mind?” or What’s going on?” instead of “What’s wrong?” The simple change of language can begin to turn the situation and our mindsets around. See if they can name the feeling and tell you more about it. What it feels like. Where they can feel it in their body. These kinds of questions get them to focus on the feeling instead of the story behind the feeling. Focusing on the feeling will help them allow it to be there and let it run its course.
Feelings are what they are. We, as humans, should feel a range of emotions throughout our lifetime and deserve to experience them all. Yes, renewing emotions like happiness bring about gratitude and love. But experiencing depleting emotions can bring about resilience and compassion. All emotions have a purpose in our life. We should greet them all with love and welcome them in.