How to Stop Running from Your Feelings
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking the past few months, not only because I was having a hard time, but also because I saw people I love the most suffering. So I started thinking about how I, how we, how our society, deals with negative emotions. I am not only talking about a bad mood, because plans were cancelled or expectations weren’t met. I am also talking about emotional trauma, about mental illness, about broken hearts or all of those combined.
I realised that the majority of people are incapable of dealing with negative emotions because nobody ever talks about it when they’re feeling miserable. We are expected to be strong because being strong is a quality we wish for and we get compliments on. With our own incapability to handle situations, in which we see other people’s pain, we mess with their journey of getting better.
After I lost my mum more than 10 years ago, I was afraid. I was afraid of the judgment of others when I started crying in public. I noticed how people didn’t know how to react, so I always tried to play it cool and “be strong“. I was ashamed when I couldn’t stop crying. I was afraid of being too happy too soon or of being sad for too long. I felt like I was causing uncomfortable situations for the people around me. Everyone always tried to comfort me and wanted me to stop crying. They thought they were doing it for me, but they did it for themselves. I figured it was because my friends were just too young to handle this situation and didn’t know how to react. But a few months ago, one of the people I love the most lost someone, too. And guess what? The exact same thing happened.
We want stability and happiness, everything else is uncomfortable. We are so used to pushing down all negativity, we have no idea how to deal with it, if it’s us who suffers or someone we love.
I am just so tired of seeing people experiencing the most pain they were ever in and not only having to deal with their emotions, but also constantly thinking about how to behave in front of others.
The consequence for me ten years ago was to pull it together. I felt like all these expectations were hanging over me and so I was strong. It took me almost 10 years to realise that this approach is bullsh*t. Because these feelings aren’t gone. They chase you. And they catch you.
The problem lies within how “being strong“ is defined. In our society it still often means not giving a f***. Not feeling anything. Getting sh*t done, even when you’re miserable. It means thinking that therapists are for crazy people. It means not needing anyone, it means never asking for help. It means not crying, especially not in front of anyone else, but also not when you’re alone. Or crying for a bit or feeling sad for a few days but that’s it then. It means not talking about how you feel when you’re in pain. This is how we think healing is done and this is the way of getting better. Is this what strength is supposed to be? Hell. To. The. No.
The behaviour I just described does one thing: it hardens your heart, your soul. It makes you unapproachable and less vulnerable. And this does feel strong at the moment. It feels like nothing bad can ever happen to you, because you won’t let it.
But there’s also two major downsides to this kind of strength: 1. You cannot numb emotions selectively, so you also numb out the extremely positive ones. 2. You cannot change or run from feelings. They are faster than you and at some point, they will catch you. And as much as you think you changed your sadness because you’re not feeling it – believe me, it is still there. Feelings cannot be changed forcefully.
So what’s the answer? If feelings can’t be changed, am I supposed to feel miserable? Yes. If you’re sad, you’re sad. If you’re in pain, you’re in pain. The more you learn to accept negative emotions, the less they can harm you. By trying to push them away, you’re giving those emotions enormous power. As soon as you learn to just accept them, they feel way less heavy. There will be days you feel better and then you will feel like crap again. It’s a process. Negative emotions are part of all of our lives - if we want them to be or not. The only way to get over pain is to feel it. Feel it, accept it, and try to learn about what it’s trying to tell you. Accept them as part of your life and a huge weight will fall off your chest. That’s what being strong is for me: having the balls and the courage to also accept everything negative going on in my life. Because eventually you will get better. And you will HONESTLY get better, without all those pushed down negative feelings haunting you. That’s how true strength is formed.
So, I beg you, if you see someone suffering, let them. Don’t try to comfort them, don’t tell them to stop crying, stop trying to do anything to stop their pain. Let. Them. Feel. It. Be there. Don’t say anything except how much you love them and that you’ll be there. And then be there. Through all of it. Even if it is uncomfortable, the crying will stop at some point and you helped immensely. Help them get it out, let them talk about what they’re feeling and don’t try to stop it or constantly try to turn it into something positive. Accept what they are feeling, accept when it gets better and also accept if it gets worse again. Everyone copes differently. We could just stop to always pretend that everything is fine, while we’re actually fighting on the inside. We could just be honest about it and fight together.
Don’t live your life trying to numb your own and other people’s emotions. You’re missing out big time. Life is way too short to lose time by trying to run from your feelings.
About the Author: Amanda Stank
What connects people most are stories, whether it’s telling a story or hearing one. It makes us understand each other and we always learn something new. This is why Amanda loves writing and has since she was a little girl. For her it’s the easiest way to express herself and to give others a piece of herself. Born in Austria, living in Vienna since 2010, working as a Personal Trainer at Fitness Unlimited since 2016, she found her passion in helping others improve themselves, physically and mentally. You can follow Amanda on Instagram @0amandarine.
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