Negative emotions like loneliness, envy, and guilt have an important role to play in a happy life; they’re big, flashing signs that something needs to change.
So universal. And yet… so personal.
Vitally important. And yet shrouded in myth and misunderstanding.
In the name of emotional wellness, we’d like to clear things up a bit.
Today we’re taking a closer look at 5 common myths about emotions… and the truth you can trust instead:
1. Emotions make us “illogical” or “irrational”
Chances are, this one isn’t news to you.
It’s a longstanding myth that has a way of resurfacing just when it’s least helpful…
“She’s too emotional to lead that team.”
“He’s too sensitive… we want someone more logical in charge.”
“I’m so upset right now, I don’t even know what I’m thinking…”
Left unchecked, this myth easily can undermine our trust in others’ judgment– and our own.
It stems from the idea that thoughts and emotions stand in contrast to one another:
You’re either feeling or you’re thinking.
Never both. Not at the same time.
But, is that actually the case?
Giving ourselves (and others) the freedom to experience a range of emotions is not only a powerful way to support emotional wellness, it can also enhance our decision-making abilities! In fact, decisions that are informed by both thoughts and emotions are often the most well-rounded and carefully reasoned.
2. Expressing emotion is a sign of weakness
Of all the myths about emotions, this is perhaps the most dangerous.
It leads to internalized stigma and shame.
It shuts down healthy conversations.
Depending on the messages you’ve received about your age, gender, cultural identity, family role, profession, etc., this is one myth you may have been carrying around for years.
Time to let it go.
It takes real strength and courage to share your feelings with others. In fact, the ability to recognize, express, and respond to emotion in yourself and others has been identified by researchers as a specific form of intelligence, which predicts varies types of success! (More on this in next week’s post.)
3. Certain emotions are “bad”
We live in a cultural that glorifies happiness.
And “good vibes”.
But, when it comes to our emotions, that’s not the whole picture, is it?
Which means we also experience frustration. Anger. Sadness. Guilt.
These emotions tend to be harder for us to talk about.
Every emotion has an important role to play in our lives. Even emotions we tend to think of as negative or “bad” can teach us valuable lessons about ourselves, directing our focus toward parts of our lives that may need greater attention or care.
4. Emotions can’t be controlled
Another of the common myths about emotions is that we have no say in what we’re feeling.
It’s true that emotions can take us by surprise.
They can intimidate, scare, or puzzle us.
Even overwhelm us at times.
But, does that mean we’re helpless captives of our own feelings?
Emotions can feel powerful, but you’re powerful, too! You might not be able to squelch an emotion, but you can respond in ways that ease or distract from what you’re feeling. For example, you can:
- shift your mindset or style of thinking.
- cultivate an attitude of thanks.
- focus on what brings you joy.
- approach yourself with greater compassion and care.
5. All emotions must be expressed
Ever had a feeling so strong you just had to get it out?
You’re not alone.
But, whether you’re shouting your good news from the rooftops or venting your irritation to a coworker, it’s worth stopping to consider:
Is this my only option?
Are there other ways I could respond to what I’m feeling?
And what are the consequences of that response?
Although it may feel like the only way to deal with an emotion like anger or frustration is to get it out, this can actually strengthen the anger you’re feeling! For instance, try an alternative to venting, such as meditation, journaling, talking with a trusted loved one, or other forms of self-care… they’re far more likely to help you feel better.
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Ready to move past these myths about emotions?