We all know “those” people who, with usually great intentions, minimize what we are going through.
“Find the silver lining”
“Just be positive”
“It can’t be that bad”
“You think you have it bad, I just went through _____________”
All “advice” well intended, but ultimately not helpful when we are really struggling and need support.
Whatever title you want to put to the above responses to sharing hardship, all of it minimizes what the other is going through and sends the message, “Your experience and feelings don’t matter.”
What I have noticed is that many times people are uncomfortable with hardship and hard emotions. They don’t know how to handle their own pain let alone anyone else’s. We’ve grown up in and been conditioned by a culture of “shove it under the ruggers” and expected to somehow be better by not dealing with “it.”
What we haven’t been told is in doing so, in pushing down the pain and ignoring it, it acts like a volcano. What do I mean by that?
Volcanos by nature have molten lava. When that lava and pressure builds up over time and doesn’t have sufficient energy outlets to release pressure, it eventually explodes. The spewing lava is destructive and devastates anything in its path.
We as humans are the volcano and the lava is emotions. When functioning properly, aka we have adequate emotional outlets, emotions get let out in healthy ways and we don’t continually build pressure until one day we’re sent over the edge and erupt.
Adequate outlets to relieve pressure look like positive coping skills, emotional regulation skills, interpersonal skills, and dealing with any underlying trauma. When upset, you don’t just stuff it down, you have the proper tools to deal with and manage the underlying emotion and you let it out in healthy ways.
The truth about growth is you have to face the hard stuff. You won’t grow by ignoring the pain or emotions or underlying trauma.
That problem isn’t just going to go away on its own. People aren’t going to mind read their way into knowing what you need or that something is bothering you.
What stinks is most of us don’t have the proper tools to deal with our emotions, trauma and relational issues. We’ve seen some not so good examples and thus have only learned what we’ve been taught.
We have to relearn what it means to be healthy. We have to make new connections in our brains with our emotions. Emotions no longer = bad, emotions = our friends.
At the heart of it, emotions always tell a story. The story being about our needs. Emotions have a cycle, a beginning, middle and an end. Emotions are only designed to really last 3-10 minutes when dealt with properly.
We have to get in touch with what we are feeling and why to know what need it is pointing to. Then we have to do the work to get that need met. (more on getting needs met later)
Sometimes we have trauma informing our emotions and internal blockages preventing us from truly dealing with things – this is like the volcano without outlets. Pressure continually builds because emotions historically aren’t safe and then they are never able to be released.
As this isn’t a post on how to deal with underlying trauma I will leave it at please look into some counseling, trauma isn’t something that just goes away with time. If you’re new to therapy, look into EMDR, it is pretty dang cool and something I use often with my own clients.
What I hope you get out of this post is a new perspective on emotions. If you are one that is part of the “shove it under the ruggers” I hope you know you’re not alone and hope you are inspired to start changing the narrative. Ultimately, when we are able to understand our emotions and the underlying needs that inform them, we tend to have a higher tolerance for distress and are better able to navigate life’s challenges without it blowing us too far out of our distress tolerance window. (more of that to come later).
Stuffing things down actually hurts more in the long run. Its time to be brave and air out the dirty laundry. Trust me, it is so worth it plus, you’re not alone.
As always, please reach out to me if you have questions, I am happy to help.
Keep on keepin on friends!
MC, LAC, EMDR Therapist