I’ve watched Brene Brown’s Ted Talk on Vulnerability and Shame twice now. It is a beautiful talk on the power of embracing vulnerability so you can overcome shame and tune in to how you are truly feeling and why. The last time I listened to the talk, one line stuck with me and has been playing in my head for the last week:
“We cannot selectively numb emotions, when we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions.”
The statement stopped me in my tracks. I began to think of all the times that I’ve been through something hard, and how often I have tried to stomp out the accompanying emotions. Jealousy, sadness, frustration, embarrassment… they are all tough reactions to feel and sometimes it seems easier to bury them deep so you do not have to work through the causes. Pushing these emotions to the side may be temporarily helpful if you have to get through a work day or be there for someone who needs you, but the long-term effects of ignored pain can linger.
Allowing yourself to feel vulnerable and giving yourself the time to work through painful experiences can have many positive effects on your life. Not only does it create space for those positive emotions, it makes it easier to be present for those around us.
There are many ways to work through difficult feelings and the same thing won’t work for everyone. Consider trying one or more of the following suggestions:
- Seek help from a counselor or therapist. Many hesitate to speak with professionals because of lingering stigma in our society. Counselors and therapists can be excellent people to talk to because they provide an un-biased perspective on our situations. They do not often provide advice, but will ask you questions that can empower you to work through what’s going on.
- Connect with network groups in your community. Network groups can help ease feelings of isolation and may give you the time you need in your week to talk about the emotions you may have been suppressing with a supportive group of people.
- Write. If you are nervous about speaking to anyone else about what’s going on in your head, writing may be a helpful way to work through your emotions. Try setting aside 5-10 minutes to record anything that came up for you during the day that may have felt uncomfortable or hurtful.
What do you do to work through tough emotions? We’d love to hear from you!
Words by Cassandra Van Dyck