Whether you are battling with depression, anger, grief, guilt, or something else that is difficult, negative emotions can be hard to handle. But, when you positively handle them and learn to process your feelings, they do not have to be scary. In fact, it is incredibly healthy and helpful to deal with your negative emotions, if you do it well.
But there are many ways that we deal with negative emotions that are not particularly healthy or productive. And when you find yourself relying on these tactics, you may want to examine just how healthy your emotional well-being is. Not sure what we mean by unhealthy ways to deal with negative emotions? Here are five examples.
Bottling Them Up
When you choose to bottle your emotions up, rather than express and process them, you start to build up stress that not only affects your health but also impairs your thinking. Your feelings will not go away when you do this but will instead reappear in often unhelpful ways. You may find yourself snapping at loved ones, losing patience with others, or experiencing strong emotions over insignificant events. Bottling things up is a temporary solution that still leaves you having to deal with your feelings later.
Withdrawing from Others
Another common but unhelpful strategy for negative emotions is to withdraw from others. You may think that it takes too much energy to be around other people. You may feel overwhelmed by your feelings. Your negative emotions may even be telling you that you are not lovable, and therefore, no one wants to be with you. All of these are isolating you from your support system, which you need when tackling hard times.
Numbing Your Pain
Whether your “drug” of choice is alcohol, food, drugs, shopping, gambling, or sex, there are many risky and harmful behaviors that are commonly used to numb your negative feelings and help you cope with hard times in your life. While numbing your emotions may feel better at the moment, you still have not dealt with the underlying issue, and your choices may be creating other, unhealthy situations in your life which you will have to deal with later.
Taking it Out on Others
When you feel bad, sometimes it can feel better if other people feel bad, too. One common but unproductive coping strategy is to take your pain out of other people. This strategy can include all sorts of threats, violence, coercion, or emotional abuse against other people in your life. Over time, this will sever essential relationships and make you feel even worse, though.
Believing that Emotions Make You Weak
There is a common idea in our culture that having strong feelings (or any real feelings at all) somehow makes you a weak person. But, having emotions is not a sign of weakness. But how you treat yourself or other people when you choose not to handle your emotions properly can be. When you believe that feelings are shameful or should be quashed, you run the risk of engaging in other types of unproductive and harmful behaviors that help to release your stress but do not help you deal with how you feel.
Learning to identify, process, and act upon your emotions in a healthy way is a real sign of emotional health. Only by engaging in productive and healthy processing and acceptance of your feelings will you ever have them under control and be able to live a happy life. When you are ready to take control of your emotional wellness, you will stop engaging in these and other unproductive strategies for dealing with negative emotions and learn how to manage them properly.