Many people come to me for counselling to deal with fear in their lives. Susan was one such client (her real name is protected for confidentiality). Susan suffered from fear of rejection, a feeling she tried her best to keep tucked away where no one could see. She experienced so much fear around her sense of abandonment that she would freeze whenever she tried to talk about it. If she was interested in a relationship, she pretended not to be and talked herself out of pursuing it any further.
As a result, Susan never understood her fear. Instead, she developed a core belief that her fear of rejection and abandonment was too painful and scary, and thus best left hidden and unattended.
Why We Ignore Negative Emotions
Most of us will agree that we ignore our less comfortable emotions out of fear. We’re afraid we’ll be stuck with the unpleasant emotion forever unless we ignore it. We imagine once we uncover a deeply hidden emotion, it might swallow us whole.
A common misconception most people have about emotions is that they’re static, which means addressing them will get us stuck in them. But the truth about our emotions is the exact opposite!
Emotions are fluid. They come, go, and evolve.
Let me give you an example. Your sadness can evolve into a deep sense of loss, bitterness, or anger if it is ignored and bottled up. Alternatively, it can develop into relief, comfort, and even springs of renewed joy.
Yes, that’s right! You don’t have to get stuck in your sadness. You can influence its transformation into something either more positive or more negative. Let me explain how you are actively involved in the process.
Transforming Your Emotions Through Acceptance
You can influence your emotions in a more positive direction by allowing them to come and go without judging them. In other words, you don’t have to label your emotions as “wrong,” “shameful,” or “unacceptable.” Instead, you can warmly invite them to come and stay with you, like you would a good friend.
What’s the benefit? Your difficult emotions will most likely melt into something soft as you learn to befriend them.
Two Ways to Handle Difficult Emotions
Let’s contrast two different ways of dealing with our emotion: abandoning versus accepting.
Let’s imagine sadness comes to visit you. You have a choice to ignore your sadness or to welcome it. Imagine what would happen to your sadness in each scenario. Depending on how your sadness is being met and attended to, you’d find that your sadness evolves into something different, becoming either lighter or more hardened.
Abandoning our emotions allows them to fester; accepting them transforms them into something more bearable, and eventually we reach an equilibrium.
In my sessions with her, Susan learned to accept her emotions by inviting her feelings of fear and allowing them to have a voice. She was encouraged to stay with her fear, like a good friend would, and let it express itself. She was then able to listen to her fear and gained a better understanding of what her fear needed: protection, assurance, and safety. As she gained a better understanding of how to care for her fear, she noticed the size and intensity of her fear began to shrink.
Bonnie Kim is a Registered Psychotherapist at Tyndale Family Life Centre. Bonnie has always taken a special interest in working with teens, young adults, and young couples, helping them to be deeply rooted in who they are and fully confident in their ability to cultivate healthy relationships and lifestyles. Ultimately, Bonnie desires to help people be restored as the people who God created them to be. Bonnie Kim can be reached at email@example.com.
Amy Francis is a freelance writer and contributor to the Family Life Centre blog. www.amyhopefrancis.com
If you or someone you know is interested in counselling contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org Or visit our website www.tyndaleflc.ca