“One is a great deal less anxious if one feels perfectly free to be anxious, and the same may be said of guilt.” – Alan W. Watts
Western culture perpetuates many harmful myths about negative emotions. When people are anxious, they’re often told, “calm down” or “it’s not a big deal.” When people cry, they are seen as “crybabies” or “looking for attention.” As far as guilt… well, if you messed up, you should feel incredibly guilty, and if you didn’t, you shouldn’t! The underlying message is that there is a specific way you should feel in different situations; therefore, if you don’t feel that way, something is wrong with you.
The truth is, there is no right or wrong way to feel. Looking at emotions as “healthy” or “unhealthy” is reductive and pejorative. The understanding that all of our emotions are acceptable sets us free.
Many people who come into my office say that their goal is to get their anxiety to stop. But someone with no anxiety would not be effective in the world. Anxiety is an excellent motivator. If you are not anxious about keeping your job, you might as well stay in bed all day and not work.
Besides, trying to stop our emotions is a futile task, like trying to stop the wind. We cannot help but feel how we feel. Rather than trying to change our emotions, we must change our behavior, and in so doing, cope more effectively.
What do you think? Comment below or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to your thoughts. Have a mindful Monday.