Feelings Don’t Kill, Drugs Do
Feelings are separate from thoughts or beliefs. They describe our internal state of being and can project or become displaced onto others in one’s environment. Many people distinguish between “good or positive emotions” vs. “bad or negative emotions.” Positive emotions are attributed to people or events which bring up feelings of safety, comfort, contentment, and mastery, among other things. Negative emotions, on the other hand, are a personal construct to which we attach feelings such as sadness or depression, isolation, conflict, and lack of connection with the outer world. It is fair to say, that we tend to gravitate towards rewarding and satisfying emotions, whereas negative or uncomfortable emotions are denied, minimized or avoided because they are often painful to deal with. It is also fair to say, that human nature is geared towards seeking pleasure and validation while avoiding pain. However, to seek only comfortable feelings while neglecting negative or uncomfortable feelings can keep many people from making the necessary changes to set healthy goals to change their lives for the better.
Dealing With Your Feelings
When negative feelings fester and are not dealt with, they gain immense power. They can lead to the stuffing of feelings which, if left unattended, can lead not only to the minimization or lack of proactive efforts towards growth and change. They can sabotage proactive efforts at change, as one focuses on what’s not working, what’s not right, rather than what’s working.
Focusing on proactive behaviors have a way of, over time, changing and channeling negative thoughts and beliefs systems into more realistic, adaptive ways of looking at one’s given situation. This goes against conventional wisdom that feelings can be lumped into “positive” or “negative” categories.
In my own life, I’ve come to see emotions as not only a reflection of inner thoughts and beliefs but as a reality check for tuning into what I’m feeling at “any one moment.” Emotions are transient – they have the capacity to change as we embark on the process of becoming “mindful” of what we are feeling at any given moment, and listening to our inner voice (including our thoughts and beliefs of a given situation). Once we listen to that inner voice, we can then decide whether to take action or not, examine where we are vs. where we want to be, and seek change through support or even professional guidance.
Emotions are a barometer into our minds, and you have a choice whether you listen to that inner voice, avoid it, minimize it, or use it as a way of fostering change. Listening to your inner voice can help you move in a positive direction, set goals and seek the guidance of someone who can guide you in your journey.
About Irving Schattner, LCSW, Psychotherapist
Irving Schattner is a licensed clinical social worker and psychotherapist with over 25 years of experience helping individuals, couples and families overcome real-life challenges as a therapist in Delray Beach, Florida. Mr. Schattner offers video and online therapy from the comfort of home, in addition to face-to-face sessions.