We’re all constantly on the lookout for ever elusive happiness. Plan our lives around it actually. And why not? It sounds fabulous. Being content with our lives, being more self-sustaining, having a purpose. All good things. But could it be that our habit of emotional avoidance is actually our biggest block to happiness?
The effort to avoid negative emotions, seems like the obvious route. Because carrying a backpack of uncomfortable negative feelings doesn’t exactly feel good. We all know those small moments of relief where we’ve successfully avoided talking about something that makes us feel vulnerable or exposes us. Avoidance can be a good short term strategy, but it’s not that great a plan for the long run.
1. Avoidance is a vicious circle
It starts with avoiding the shallow gut in your stomach, that quickly escalates into making excuses about it to yourself, that results in avoiding all situations and people that could be even remotely lead to the negative feeling. Pretty soon, you’re stuck with feeling horrible, not knowing why and not knowing where to begin feeling better from. (Because you looked past the root cause, Einstein).
2. Emotional avoidance is inversely proportional to self awareness
Avoiding a feeling takes a lot of resources and investment out of you. It can seriously set you back from the path of introspection and growth, only because you’re essentially choosing to overlook a very important feeling. This feeling could be anger, or jealousy, or insecurity or heartbreak, and could be covered in several shades of black. Nevertheless, if you feel the way you feel you must have a reason for it. And by not accepting this, you’re not only invalidating your own self, but are also driving a wedge between who you are and what you feel.
3. Ultimately, it’s a moot point
As the genius Freud himself said, “Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways”. Amen.
If you don’t at least express to yourself that you feel a certain way because of certain things or people or what have you, you’re just succeeding in putting it under the rug, and not killing it. So it’s very much alive. But thing is, you can only control what you express and accept. If you don’t, later on, it will express itself in ways you are then unable to control. Basically, a stitch in time saves nine.
4. Acceptance simplifies things
Sometimes the fear of things keep us from really seeing its magnitude. It could be that you’re so caught up in avoiding this feeling that you haven’t sat and thought about how maybe it’s not such a big deal after all. After having thought through the negativity and the consequences, it could be possible that it’s not even THAT bad. And ultimately, whatever it may be, it does come down to this. Because while it may not be fun, experiencing it makes you grow, makes it end faster and does not, in fact, kill you.
5. You gain power of what you have accepted
Resisting emotions only gives it more power over you. The destructive power of the negative feeling is lost the minute you take some time to understand what you feel and why. It’s akin to trying to swim against the current. You just end up wasting your energy, but when you let go, you see that the current ultimately weakens. Let the emotion run its course instead of fighting it in futile effort.