Emotional Acceptance: The Positive Side of Negative Emotion

Carly BensonPractice0 Comments

emotional acceptance

We are all wired with the same set of emotions. Some show theirs better than others. We are hard wired to feel, no matter what we do in this life to try not to feel things; we ultimately are made to feel. When we learn how to have emotional acceptance we begin to see the positive side of negative emotion.

Having compassion for everyone exactly where they are is a practice. Sometimes we say and do things not thinking it will have an affect on someone or realizing the affect. Even the strongest people can hide their emotions, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t there. I always try to be cognizant of this when I see or hear someone struggling.

I used to numb my feelings with alcohol and drugs. My numbing was more of an escape. And not that I had a horrible life or anything particularly bad happen to me, I just did not want to feel. I didn’t want to experience being vulnerable to actually feeling some of the extreme emotions that we are made to feel.

Now, in my sobriety, I have a higher appreciation for feelings. Although some of them are still harder to feel than others, I will typically relish in them as they are happening with a practice of gratitude. I’m actually thankful that I get to experience the full spectrum of emotions we are built and programmed to eventually feel at some points in our lives.

It’s a sign of life.

Emotions are inevitably an indicator of change whether it is presently occurring or needs to.

They can actually be a vital clue to a relationship that is bad, health issues or overall problems that need to be addressed.

If we can switch the cultural conversation about negative emotions to viewing them as such a integral part of our evolution, then it offers us some guilt-free acceptance in this area where we often feel ashamed for feeling sad, angry, rage, jealousy, etc. It is OK to feel these emotions. It only becomes concerning if we attach to them and begin to let them define us or control us.

Everyone has problems. We all have our struggles and things we fall short on. We’re all treading through life, some at faster paces than others, but all of us have the same basic needs and feelings. Not one of us is perfect.

[Tweet “We were born to be real, not perfect.”]

When we really stop to think about it, what truly connects us all is that we can see ourselves in others.  We relate to our inner circles because of our commonalities. The real commonality is how we feel and how we think. We are all one in the same.

I think a crucial part of life is learning how to not only acknowledge, but also process negative emotions. And to do it unapologetically. It’s OK to not always be upbeat and happy all the time. While I believe in positive thinking and mindset, I also know that in order to experience the positive, we also have to give time for the negative.

“Acknowledging the complexity of life may be an especially fruitful path to psychological well-being,” according to psychologist Jonathan M. Adler.

Emotional avoidance can be a cause of so many other things such as addiction, cheating, bad habits or things that are otherwise unhealthy for us. Avoidance may be effective in the short term, but speaking from experience as a recovered addict and alcholic, it isn’t a solid long-term plan. The pain of shoving the emotion down rather than dealing with it becomes even more painful after time.

The best advice I can offer for emotional acceptance that has worked for me, stems from the times that I have allowed myself to actually feel. Emotional acceptance is a willingness and capacity to accept and experience negative emotions by acknowledging and absorbing them.

Give yourself the needed time, whether is an hour or a couple days, to feel your way through the experience. Cry, scream, lay in the dark, eat an entire carton of ice cream – what ever it is that you feel you need to do (without harming yourself or others ) – do it.

When you do this you face the reality of the situation. You give honor to the truth at hand. Not only that but you are learning the skill of managing the emotion. This will give you practice for the next time it comes around.

By accepting and feeling the emotions, you take away their destructive power. Pushing against a negative emotion will only give it strength. Instead when you let go and allow it to run it’s course, you will notice a little more ease in moving through it.

Sit with the emotion.

Feel it.

Pray about it.

Let it come up.

Let it come out.

And then let it go.

As my mother always likes to remind me: “This, too, shall pass.”

Photo Credit: BelleJune