If emotional health means allowing and tolerating the entire range of human emotion, why do you resist the unpleasant feelings so much?
We could have a whole conversation here about ways societal messages contribute to shutting down unpleasant emotions. But I’m just not going to get into it. Maybe later.
Let’s just think about this on a basic human level: when there is physical pain, the instinct is to move away from it. The stove is hot, you quickly stop touching it. That is a natural instinct.
We do the same with emotional pain.
Except there are two important points about emotional pain:
1. Emotional pain is usually more intense than physical pain.
2. It is wise to move away from physical pain, it is not wise to move away from emotional pain (unless you are being flooded with emotional pain).
Because emotional pain is usually more intense than physical pain, you are apt to resist it even more. You don’t want to experience it and you don’t want to have to report to other people that you are experiencing it.
What do you do when you are resisting an unpleasant emotional experience?
Your body actually knows that something difficult is arising before that consciously registers in your mind. The body is the most up-to-date source of information that you can access about how you are feeling. So, you are likely in resistance to a difficult feeling before it even hits your awareness.
That is why resistance manifests in behaviors.
Behaviors are also the most primitive way to express our emotions (think about how babies communicate: behavior).
When I am resisting, I might be overly involved in looking at my phone or social media, I might get hungry for cookies or ice cream, I might overwork so there is no time for me to feel anything.
When I notice those behaviors, I try to take some time to be with myself. Give some space for things to come up. Sometimes it helps me if I just start writing, sometimes I lay on the ground and tune into my body to see where the feelings are or I might do some insight meditation (Vipassana) so I can allow it to come up.
Make a list of the behaviors you do when you are resisting a difficult feeling.
If you don’t know what you do, you can ask a loved one and start to notice this about yourself. You might be surprised!
Once you know you are in resistance, you have some control over the situation. You can chose to let the feeling come through or you can minimize the damage done by some resistant behaviors.