As a therapist I focus a lot on emotions and feel emotions are very important to our experience of being a human which includes acknowledging, experiencing, and validating our emotions. But I was recently asked the other day by a new client “why is it helpful for me to experience my emotions?” And that question totally got me thinking that we as humans are way more likely to do something if we understand and relate to the importance or benefit of that experience. So here are some of the reasons to the why of letting yourself experience your emotions:
1. Resisting our emotional experience actually increases our suffering
When we feel pain, our natural instinct is to try to make it go away. This can lead to suppressing the pain if it is emotional. But emotion is energy and without having an outlet, it collects in the body. So the pain which we are resisting is actually increasing our suffering by having the emotional energy being persistently present. Acknowledging and expressing our hurt and pain can actually do the opposite by increasing our tolerance of pain. We are no longer suffering by resisting and avoiding our emotional experience an in turn allowing ourselves to experience the sensation of our emotions can increase our ability to tolerate the experience, making it gradually less scary and uncomfortable to experience uncomfortable energy.
2. Full emotional experiencing
We cannot selectively numb or deny emotions so when we do that to our sadness, fear, and anger, we are also numbing out our ability to experience happiness, joy, and gratitude. Emotions are a full experience and come with both heavy and light experiences. I would say most of us want to experience the light emotions and more of them and a way we are actually able to experience more of those light emotions is by experiencing and embracing the full spectrum of emotional experiences. Part of being human is being able to experience a range of emotions and experiencing sadness and hurt is part of what makes it so incredible to feel joy and happiness.
3. It is good for our physical health too
Most people think that expressing emotions is good for our mental and emotional health which is true but there is also an increasing amount of research that shows that expressing our emotions is also good for our physical health. Actively holding back our emotions is hard work which can drain our body of energy. This can negatively affect the functioning of our immune system, our heart and vascular systems, and even our brain and nervous systems. The emotional environment we navigate throughout a day produces its own physiological feedback, just like how we nourish or neglect our physical body can affect how we feel psychotically. It is a part of the mind-body connection. Blocked and suppressed emotions have been linked to physical problems like heart disease, intestinal problems, headaches, insomnia, and autoimmune disorders.
4. Emotions bring people together
Emotions are cues for other people to understand us more and relate to our experience. By expressing our emotions, we are giving other people important information related to who we are as a person, what we care about and value, and/or what we might be needing in certain moments. When we express vulnerable emotions like sadness, pain, or fear with other people we care about, it actually creates bonding moments with that other person, making the relationship deeper, more meaningful, and intimate.
Written by Malinda King, MA, LPCC
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