Why it's important to 'feel' all of your feelings
There’s a reason we all have a wide range of emotions: we need them.
Emotions help us to communicate with others, such as when we feel sad and need some help. They also can help us to act quickly in important situations.
For example, when you’re about to cross the street and see a car coming quickly, fear gets you to jump back onto the curb. Emotions also provide important information and can sometimes be experienced as a “gut feeling” or intuition.
What is emotional invalidation?
Emotional invalidation happens when we tell someone that what they’re feeling is “wrong.”
It can sometimes sound like “you’re overreacting, just get over it, at least you have [blank], or good vibes only.” We can also do the same thing to ourselves in the form of our own self talk.
The opposite of invalidation is validation, and this occurs when we communicate that someone’s emotions make sense, or are, at the very least, understandable.
Why does emotional invalidation hurt?
Invalidation hurts because it communicates that understandable feelings are somehow wrong or bad.
This makes it difficult to know what we’re feeling, process our emotions and get support from others.
Invalidation weakens our connection with others and increases feelings of loneliness, while validation does the opposite. Validation helps us feel more connected to others and problem solve more effectively.
How can acknowledging that you don’t feel OK be helpful?
The simple act of labeling what you’re feeling (without judgement) can help regulate your emotions. Emotions come and go like waves, if we let them. The idea here is to ride the wave of emotion instead of trying to stop a giant wave and getting pushed around.
Why can ignoring anger, grief and sadness be harmful?
When we ignore our feelings it creates a “boomerang” effect where the emotions will just come back later, and sometimes even stronger than they were before. Allowing ourselves to feel what we’re feeling helps us move forward instead of getting stuck.
Why are we struggling with our feelings as the COVID-19 pandemic drags on?
We all experience negative and overwhelming emotions at times. Factors that make us more vulnerable to negative emotions include: physical illness, insomnia/fatigue, substance use, hunger or overeating, too many demands on our time and threats in the environment.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created a situation where these factors occur more often and/or more intensely. So it makes sense that as the pandemic continues, more of us are struggling with more negative and overwhelming emotions.
When should you seek mental health help?
If you find that emotions cause distress and/or impact your functioning, it might be time to seek professional help. Therapists and psychiatrists create a safe environment for you to explore your emotions and help you find solutions to problems in your life.
Emily Bucher is a psychiatric counselor at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.