Accepting vulnerability will pay-off eventually
Honest soul-searching exercise and making amends is the panacea from mental distress
If we are repressing emotions for the sake of keeping things in order and for prioritizing happiness and optimism, we are entering a self-defeating loop. If we always suppress what we truly feel for the sake of order, happiness and optimism, the resultant order will be built on lies and the happiness would be a compromised one, not to forget that the optimism would be unreasonable and inconsequential
Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren't always comfortable, but they're never weakness-Brené Brown
While most discourse, for a long time, has been dominated by a concern for happiness, it is safe to say that all of us experience unpleasant emotions on a daily basis. Unprecedented competition together tremendous pressures at every level and rapidly transforming lives have led to a circumstance where anger, anxiety and fear are widely felt. Yet, there is a culturally endorsed predilection for pushing these issues under the carpet and striving for the ever-elusive goals of success, joy and glory. While optimism and determination are necessary, human history has shown that repression of difficult sentiments leads to a groundswell of unrest and explosive consequences.
Therefore, a different approach might be worth trying— instead of repressing, why can’t we face and take control of distressing emotions? Why can’t determination with an acceptance of vulnerability replace shallow escapism?
Numerous studies have shown the direct impact of not dealing with, evading or suppressing emotions. A 2011 study at the University of Texas found out that repressing emotions only happen to make them stronger and manifest in disruptive ways, as the respondents in the study, were asked to show no reaction to gory scenes from films, turned out to be “more aggressive afterwards than subjects who were allowed to show their revulsion”, as Science Daily reports. Other than that, research shows that this has resulted in mental and physical health issues in some individual. However, apart from these obvious dangers, we need to read the fine print.
It has to be understood that if we are repressing emotions for the sake of keeping things in order and for prioritizing happiness and optimism, we are entering a self-defeating loop. If we always suppress what we truly feel for the sake of order, happiness and optimism, the resultant order will be built on lies and the happiness would be a compromised one, not to forget that the optimism would be unreasonable and inconsequential. With such an approach, we are running the risk of turning into perennially unhappy and dishonest people and in turn, building a perennially unhappy and dishonest society.
Therefore, a fresh approach necessitates directness, self-awareness and articulation while dealing with displeasing emotions. Instead of avoidance and escaping, this route involves piercing through the problem to reach a worthy place. Vulnerability is a human necessity which we must not abandon and decry. It takes courage to understand and accept what troubles us, but great journeys start from that crucial stepping stone.
So, how do we go about facing vulnerability and unpleasant emotions? A space of acknowledgment and consequently, expression is arguably where it starts.
Susan David, author of Emotional Agility, as HBR reports, makes the case for labelling your feelings. The publication quotes David to this effect,
“Words matter. If you’re experiencing a strong emotion, take a moment to consider what to call it. But don’t stop there: once you’ve identified it, try to come up with two more words that describe how you are feeling. You might be surprised at the breadth of your emotions — or that you’ve unearthed a deeper emotion buried beneath the more obvious one.”
David indeed makes a significant point. For instance, when you label your emotion ‘anger’, you acknowledge that you are angry and when you go further and use more words to describe what you are feeling, you get to the root of that anger, understanding what caused it in the first place. A self-reflection enabled by words is certainly useful to deal with repugnant emotions.
The other necessary step is to accept the ubiquity of bad emotions and being kind to oneself when dealing with them. Fear, shame, anger and a host of such feelings are experienced universally and therefore, feeling these things do not put you behind in a race or make you disadvantaged. Instead, consider facing these emotions as necessary in your quest to be a better, healthier and content person and take the courageous and requisite steps to come out healed, stronger and rejuvenated.
All things said and done, there is no long-term escape from the spectre of uncomfortable feelings and therefore, we must have the tensile strength to brave it out, to mindfully fight a battle that will make us truly happy. It is time for us to choose healthy expression over unhealthy repression, courage over fear and forge a world where humanity thrives under a regime of emotional bliss.
(The author is Founder & CEO Upsurge Global and Adjunct Professor and Advisor EThames College)