Positive perspectives and practices for personal growth.

Accepting the way you feel

We’re always searching for answers to explain the way we feel. If we feel stressed, angry, frustrated, irritated, upset, depressed or demotivated, our first inclination is to wrack our brain in search of the source – that key thought, belief or event from our past that’s driving that negativity.

That can often by a good thing because it helps us to better understand ourselves, resolve underlying issues, adopt healthier perspectives and regain our peace of mind.

But what happens if the root cause of our suffering remains elusive, beyond our conscious grasp? Then the despair of not being able to rationally analyse away our woes simply adds to the mental conflict; the peace of mind we so desperately crave is further lost in a sea of negativity.

As a sufferer of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder I wasted many years trying to rationalise away overwhelming anxiety and depression – something most therapists would encourage you to do. And whilst constantly asking myself, ‘Why am I feeling like this?’ could on occasion provide a helpful insight into my thought processes and a temporary respite from the pain, most of the time it just added to it.

The problem with asking yourself, ‘Why am I feeling like this?’ is that the question has a nasty habit of metamorphosing in ‘Why can’t I find an answer to the way I’m feeling…what’s wrong with me?’ The good intentions of self-analysis take a sinister turn…instead of finding resolution you start to feel like a hopeless cause.

I’m sure there are times when you’ve experienced the same – you’ve felt nervous or anxious in a specific situation or around certain people; or you’ll have felt stressed at work, or angry for no identifiable reason. You’ve failed to rationally explain away your emotions and it’s simply made you feel worse.

Let go of the search

I have learned the hard way that there are times to try to analyse your feelings, and there are times to simply let go. To that end, when the root cause is so deep rooted or hidden from the conscious mind that attempting to rationalise it is futile, it is far healthier to simply let go of the struggle and accept how you’re feeling.

The next time you experience negative emotions you can’t fully comprehend, try the same approach – let go of the self-analysis and simply accept your emotions as they are.

Resisting the urge to analyse your emotions can feel counter intuitive; as if you’re failing to take responsibility for your own emotional state. We’re almost brainwashed into believing that explanation must come before resolution – that we must understand the root cause of our negative emotions before we can resolve them and feel better.

But far from being an act of apathy, accepting that there may be no identifiable, logical reason for experiencing a negative emotion has the opposite effect: it provides a profound sanctuary from the self-criticism and frustration that tend to arise from thinking that you ‘shouldn’t be feeling like this’, or being unable to find resolution. You paradoxically become more contemplative and calmer.

A Vast Unknown

The simple truth is that the human mind is vast in its complexity – and sometimes the workings of even your own mind will lie far outside the scope of your own conscious grasp. There can be so many thoughts, emotions, memories and perspectives bouncing off and influencing one another in your mind at any given time, that the ’cause’ of your fear, anger, stress or whatever negative emotion you’re experiencing could be as unquantifiable as the size of the Universe.

So let go of the belief and the fight that there must always be an explanation; because quite simply that explanation may not be in your power to reach or to understand.

The refusal to let go of that fight can be as infuriating as repetitively searching over and over again in the same place for your lost keys. If they’re not there, they’re not there – looking again doesn’t help, it just adds to the frustration. In a similar way, wracking your brain for the reason you’re feeling bad isn’t always constructive. It’s a mark of desperation not effective resolution, it’s self-destructive not constructive.

When you next feel anxious, depressed or upset, by all means see if you can resolve those emotions by searching for ‘the cause’. But if it doesn’t come to you, simply say to yourself, ‘I feel anxious…or I feel depressed…or I feel upset’ and leave it at that.

Accepting how you feel isn’t a case of giving up, or being indifferent or apathetic; but instead is about working with, not against yourself. If you can let go of vain attempts to establish a ’cause’ and just accept the presence of those negative emotions, the one thing I can guarantee is that you’ll be surprised at the peace of mind you achieve.

If you found this post helpful and you think others will too, please consider sharing the link on Facebook, Twitter or whatever other site you use. Thank you, Gareth