COPING REQUIRES ACCEPTANCE OF EMOTIONS – PART II

Accepting negative thoughts and feelings as a natural part of life will help you be less self-critical and upset with your life, especially if you believe you don’t match up with your own and society’s ideals. You’re not weird or abnormal just because you experience troubling thoughts or feelings, and you’re not here to live up to others’ expectations.

There are times you must accept your pain without giving into tendencies to engage in some form of escape or avoidance and run from stress. Drug/alcohol abuse, social withdrawal, gambling, eating disorders and other acts of escape and avoidance are likely to magnify and expand problems while taking you farther from your value systems. If you value your roles as parent, spouse, employee, friend, or lover but, at the same time, let yourself become less effective in these roles, how can you expect to feel better about yourself?  If you value work, family, and friends, you must act accordingly, and with a sincere commitment and dedication.

Do you regularly ask yourself, “How well am I doing?” or, “Am I happy enough?” If you overdo it you can lose your ability to feel satisfied in the present. For example, chronically depressed and anxious people are likely to focus on whether or not they are feeling better. They search for answers in social situations to see how they are doing: “Does Joe see I’m here?” “Do I look foolish to Sally?” They also monitor their own actions: “Is my heart racing?” “Am I sweating?” “Am I just pretending?” “How well am I relating?” They try to feel “right,” which makes it impossible to be themselves and have a good time.

Do you constantly check on your actions and worry about what others are thinking? Do you try to maintain complete control of what’s going on around you? Such efforts are not a coping solution, but are the problem. In the final analysis it is actions based on fear and anxiety that are the underlying issues most people have to face; fear and anxiety are the motivators for the conflicts that produce most psychological problems and encourage inappropriate actions.

So stop treating your emotions as if they are alien invaders. They are you! We all have them and it’s natural. You are not weird. Accept your emotions but do not be governed by them. Acceptance of their presence and moving along in spite of this presence is one thing; letting them dominate you to the point that you struggle to deny them is quite another.

3 thoughts on “”

  1. Rose has a great question. I would venture to say that accepting your emotions is finding a balance between trying to control them (like Mr Spock), and allowing your emotions to control you. Not always easy (especially when dealing with fear and anxiety). Am I in the ballpark?

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  2. Rosie, your comment is tough to answer because I’m not sure if you’re looking for a step-by-step how-to manual. Some things, like deep breathing exercises and meditation can be amenable to that approach, but most of the things we talk about in this blog deal with the process of living your life. Effective coping involves developing new patterns of living, new ways of looking at things, and especially being guided by accepting certain realities. Just today I was reading a news column about immigration written by a lady from Brazil who came to America years ago and has a successful career in journalism and reporting. One of her comments struck home when she noted she used to be self-conscious about her slight accent when talking to people. Eventually, however, she “learned to embrace it as part of me.” That’s acceptance, not denying the accent or continually dwelling on it while speaking to others. “Can they understand me?” “Do I sound stupid?” Such ruminations made her less effective as a reporter. Your question to her would be, “How did you embrace it?” Whatever she did it fit with her personality dynamics. The point, however, is not the method she used; the point is that she took some control of something bothering her and used it to her advantage. Acceptance means acknowledging, not denying or covering up. If an emotion is bothering you, Rosie, you must say, “Well, that’s me. No sense in dwelling excessively on it. I must develop ways of behaving that allow me to compensate for any shortcomings that the emotion brings me in certain situations.” Sound too general? Well, then you need to pose a more specific question. But I appreciate the feedback and interest in the post. Thanks for your input, too, Audra. Live long and prosper!

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