Why do we hide from our emotions?

We all struggle with our emotions sometimes. In an attempt to know more about how emotions work, I attended the course Mood mastery by clinical psychologist and author Nick Wignall. Here is some of the ideas that resonated most with me.

Why do we hide from our emotions?

Emotions are ever-present in our lives. They start to take shape in our childhood and many of us fall into certain traps that make our relationships with emotions rather unstable.

Isn't it common to hear the following from your parents when you are a child?

"It's fine, don't worry, go play with your toys"

A seemingly harmless phrase, but it teaches us that feeling worried/afraid/sad is something to be avoided. We are taught that we shouldn't feel that way. And so, our body does what it knows to do best: Creating connections. So next time that we have negative emotions, we try to escape from them. This was one my main takeaways from the Mood Mastery course I attended.

"By avoiding an emotion, you get into the habit of teaching yourself that the emotion is bad or dangerous" - Nick Wignall

I don't consider my relationship with my emotions fully dysfunctional, but there are many areas to improve. And embracing my emotions instead of avoiding them is one of those.

Avoiding your emotions has never been easier: Take your phone and scroll your favorite social media, virtually infinite content online, ordering takeaway to home, eating unhealthy food, drinking.

Not running from your feelings takes a lot of willpower, ability to change your habits and relearning. And doing those things is more difficult if your default mode is to escape from what is uncomfortable...

Solution sounds simpler than it is: Just be your emotions. Accept them.

Emotions come and go, like a wave, and rarely are as scary or long-lasting as we picture them. The course had some suggestions to help with accepting your emotions:

  • Be aware of your emotions: Write down an emotion log, the difficulty here is that we are acting out of habit and it is not always easy to detect them in the exact moment.
  • Breathe, wait 5 minutes and reassess: Once you detect the emotion, write down how bad it feels on a scale from 1 to 10, then breathe, retake the task you were doing and put an alarm for 5 minutes. When alarm rings, then write down again how bad it feels. Repeat this 2-4 times.

The benefits of enduring pain in the short term outweigh the benefits of ignoring it in the long term. Think about this case scenario:

You are about to talk in a meeting and feel nervous, so instead of unmuting the microphone and making a comment, you decide not to say anything (avoiding the emotion). Then you start to have an internal talk and start thinking why you need to be so nervous all the time. As a result, you are now anxious, ashamed and angry at yourself for a long time, instead of just enduring the temporary emotional discomfort of talking.

Emotions are a necessary function of the body and they aim to help, for example:

  • When feeling fear or anxiety brain thinks there is danger and wants to help to escape
  • When feeling sad, it might be a signal that you've lost something valuable.

Emotions simply carry information, and we should listen to those and accept them instead of trying to escape or fix them.

Since me and my soon-to-be wife are expecting to have a child in June, I have invested time and money to learn more about this topic to try to ensure to give the best tools to my baby on learning how to handle his emotions.

I think it is a fascinating topic, so if you want to discuss about it with me, get in touch with me and let's talk emotions!