The Full Range of Human Emotion

No matter how many times people say "Crying shows strength" or "You have to feel your feelings" it is still hard for people. This can be too abstract in a scary sort of way. In the history of modern culture, this concept is relatively new still. Also, being told to feel your feelings can be just as frustrating as being told to just stop being sad. It just doesn't happen that easily for many people.

In a technical sense (forgive me for a second), sayings like that reinforce a false dichotomy of either feeling your feelings or not. Totally bogus. It is not an on or off switch. You're feeling feelings all the time, you might just not realize them or know how to engage with them.

The alternative to the cliches that I love is simply allowing and appreciating the full range of human emotion. Imagine, in baseball, if you're trying to swing at a ball but keep yourself tight and don't really fully engage, that ball isn't going anywhere. However, when a batter fully engages their whole body when they swing. Magical things happen. (#GoAstros)

This is not, however, swinging the bat around heedlessly. This is not being emotional reckless. This is not giving yourself permission to fly off the handle or to act out in a way that harms yourself or others. This is not pulling a Kanye and allowing yourself to be irresponsible in managing a serious mental health disorder, heedless of the harm it can do when unmanaged.* 

This is allowing and appreciating the value of emotion. This is respecting all of what our emotions can lead us to experience in a way that brings depth and richness. This is getting to know and understand over time how you personally experience and express different kinds of emotion.

Being able to scream/ ugly cry/ sob to a loved one or at home in bed alone doesn't feel good, but man is it important.  

Why? Because then you can know pain and not be afraid of it. You can know that it will come and it will go. Because you ask for help from others when you acknowledge the sadness and hurt and grow more connected and build stronger relationships. Because it is important to know that we are not perfect and can't do it all/be it all and certainly can't do it alone. Because our bodies need an emotional release valve when that stress builds up. Because we need to know whatever hurt is us important, really important to us. ...just for starters. 

This includes fear and anxieties about feeling the more positive feelings too, such as anxiety about laughing in the midst of grief or showing excitement when you're usually stoic. It can include letting yourself be happy even if when you've been happy before it has led to hurt. 

The full range of emotion is healthy.* We don't need to feel bad for having certain feelings or thoughts or be afraid of them. We don't need to force ourselves to be a certain way all the time if it isn't genuine. We need every gradation of feeling just like we need every gradation of color and light and sound. It may take time to listen to what that thing is that is stirring inside you, let along figure out what to do with it, but I encourage you to take that time. It will be worth it. 


*The fully range of healthy emotion does not include erratic and harmful emotional experiences. If you have such extreme emotions that you have difficulty functioning or difficulty maintaining relationships or want to hurt yourself or someone else, please consult a trained mental health professional to learn how to manage these specific experiences.