Feel It or Let Go? | A Blog About Emotions
The other day, on the way home from work, I happened to catch the end of the song Turn! Turn! Turn! by The Byrds. For the remainder of the night, the song was on repeat in my head, and the following line from the song persisted for several days: “A time you may embrace, a time to refrain from embracing.” Lately, there’s been a lot of conversation in my world about the purpose of emotions. Essentially, the question has come up… How does one know when to pay heed to a particular emotion, or when to let it go? Often, as a friend of mine admitted the other day, it can be easier to tighten the grip on a particular emotion (or way of doing things) for fear that, if the grip is loosened or released altogether, it might feel as though we’re working in foreign territory. For example, if excitement is easier than feeling, say, nothing in particular, then one might assume that he or she is apt to live a more exciting life, or at least seek adventure with more frequency. But, if one is relentlessly seeking excitement, there might be an unyielding need to cease from feeling anything else, which, needless to say, could lead to careless decision-making and harm to one’s self or others. Let’s say the opposite is true. A person might find it difficult to get too excited about anything for fear of disappointment, which might, in turn, lead to lost opportunity or an absence of that all-important sensation of feeling alive.
There’s a purpose to our emotions, no doubt. We needn’t brush aside what we tend to feel and how we attempt to address it (if we address it at all). Without recognition as to the whys and wherefores of a certain emotion, a person is unlikely to fully understand his or her behavior as a result of a particular feeling. Our emotions can rule our thoughts after all, and therefore, instruct our behavior. (And, of course, strong emotions are often an appropriate response to a particular situation.) We do need to embrace them, in order to move through them. But, as wisely stated by The Byrds, there’s also a time to refrain from embracing, especially if we tend to hold on to one emotion for prolonged periods of time. When the emotion no longer serves a purpose (e.g., to allow for greater discernment, to mourn, to provide release), it might be time to refrain from embracing, even if it’s just for a little while.
Written by Ann Kellogg, MS, LPC