From a young age, our parents tell us “don’t cry” and “there’s nothing to be sad about.” We’re taught as children that our automatic setting should be happy, and any other feeling is some sort of malfunction that we need to stop immediately.
We live in a society so obsessed with “living our best life” that in some ways, modern culture has vilified feeling any other emotion than happiness. We see this in the over-exaggeration of any other state or emotion — when someone is sad, they are called “depressed” or if someone is hungry, they are labeled as “starving.”
Conversely, people who don’t show emotions are seen as a distraction. They won’t express how they truly feel and they suppress any genuine emotion.
We can’t forget the value and power of emotions, as well as the importance they have every day of our lives. We have to stop stigmatizing emotions as good or bad and instead accept them as they are, incomplete without feeling the full range of them.
This compressing of emotion can be harmful in so many ways. For most people, there is some sort of coping mechanism for dealing with an unpleasant emotion. They instantly try to numb those feelings by escaping to hobbies like listening to music or watching television shows and movies. Others, unfortunately, turn to unhealthier coping mechanisms such as alcohol, drugs, restricting or binging food, compulsive shopping and other self-harming behaviors.
It’s for this reason that I believe it is far healthier to “lean into” your experiences of pain, rather than trying to numb your emotions. You should feel your emotions, not flee from them.
It’s OK to feel things. Going through the rise and fall of emotions on a daily basis is part of what makes us who we are. Emotions are a motivating factor for us. They are key to building relationships, and they make life worth living.
Additionally, I don’t believe that you can selectively numb emotions. Through your refusal to feel any negative emotions, you ultimately end up closing yourself off from all emotions. The range of emotions we have is what makes us human. Being sad and hurt is part of what makes it so incredible to feel joy and happiness. This process is part of living a full life, blocking it stops us from reaching our full potential.
Life is just too short to not experience it fully, it’s too short not to be your authentic self and too short not to embrace every emotion you feel to the fullest.