Emotions give our lives so much color. We jump with surprise. We cry with joy. We relish lives well lived. We sit content. We’re stunned with amazement.

Life without emotions would be a lot like a coloring book page before the budding artist pulls out the new box of crayons.

Too Cheerful?

Americans are known around the world for our cheerfulness and general upbeat-ness. Social media can continue this cultural expectation of widespread rosiness since we usually only post our best and happiest moments. But we have to be careful that we don’t push down, deny or ignore what we might think of as our negative emotions.

The movie Inside Out did a great job of helping us understand that all emotions are healthy emotions. There are not bad emotions. How we perceive our emotions is a product of our culture, family, personality and experiences. But like we learned with the characters in Inside Out, we can get ourselves into big trouble if we try to deny, bury or ignore what we perceive to be our “negative” emotions.

This will Pass

When we do feel some things we wished we wouldn’t, the best thing we can do is simply acknowledge it with the understanding that like all our emotions, it will pass.

I feel sad right now. This will pass.

You can fill in the blank. I feel ____________. This will pass.

An even better practicing would be to try and put your finger on why. I am sad because the KC Royals lost their last game. Or I am disappointed because my child is not acting how I wish they would act. When we can figure out why we are feeling a certain way, it can help us accept it and not take it out on others. I am sad because the Royals lost, but my spouse is not to blame for that. This is my feeling and it will pass.

When it Doesn’t

We run into problems when we can’t stop feeling a certain way and we get stuck. Human beings are complicated creatures! Our emotions are affected by our physical bodies, our brain chemicals, our spiritual practices, our nutrition and our personality. When our emotions get stuck in the same rut and we can’t seem to get out it, it can be very difficult to figure out why.  Along with your doctor, a mental health counselor can also help you think through biological, nutritional or hormonal issues that might be affecting your emotions.

Part of the human experience is navigating negative emotions.  It is normal for our brains to begin trying to figure out “how to stop these undesirable feelings” since a large part of the brain is designed to keep us safe. Negative emotions do not make us feel safe, even if we are surrounded by food, shelter and loved ones. Unfortunately, suicide can become an option when intense feelings seem to have no end in sight or the person believes there will be nothing to alleviate the pain on the horizon.

Helpful Tips

Roxi Sheeran, a counselor at HopeNet suggests some helpful tips if you suspect a loved one might be having suicidal thoughts:

  • Ask! Asking some about suicide can actually help decrease the weight their carrying if they are considering harming themselves.
  • Ask them about some future plans or events that they are looking forward to. This can work for all us to get out of a bad mood or help us move on from negative feeling. Thinking about something in the future can get us out of the present, negative situation and ahead to a time when this not great time will pass.
  • Call 911 or the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 if you are unsure they are safe.

For more on Suicide Prevention Awareness, see this video.

We all will experience emotions we do not like and for most of us, these emotions will pass. Talking with a friend or a counselor can help you understand why you might be experiencing some these emotions. Never be afraid to ask for help!