Whether we like it or not, emotions are very clearly an integral part of our lives as human beings. I say it like that because I’m certain there are some individuals out there who are convinced our existence would be easier if we were all emotionless, unfeeling blobs. I suppose, on my crappiest of crap days, I can sort of see where these people are coming from. But emotion is a two-sided coin. If there’s sadness, there is also happiness. If there’s anger, there’s also serenity. The darkest shadows wouldn’t exist if light didn’t shine. I sound like I’m reciting the Jedi Code from Star Wars, but I digress…
My vote is in favor of emotions, and I’m willing to bet most people feel the same, most of the time. How we feel is directly linked, obviously, to what happens to us, around us, and from us. Very rarely can we control what happens to us, but with discipline we can control how we react to it. It’s called mindfulness. I’ve mentioned it briefly in a prior post, as it seems to be a growing practice among many who suffer from depression and/or anxiety. In short, mindfulness is putting our emotions aside during our initial reaction to a situation, and viewing that situation from a purely logical standpoint. Mindfulness does not ask us to become those aforementioned unfeeling drones, but instead to only take our emotions into initial consideration of a situation when absolutely necessary (which it rarely is). By avoiding passionate emotions such as anger, jealousy, and rage when reacting to a situation, we save ourselves the trouble of jumping to conclusions or doing things we later regret. After we’ve given ourselves time to view that situation from an unclouded mind, only then do we let our emotions run through us. It takes constant practice and dedication, but a mindful view of the world has done wonders for people.
Mindfulness teaches us to acknowledge our emotions, just not when initially reacting to a situation. The emotions are still there, though. They’re real. They mean something. With that in mind, I think about a little reverse psychology trick depression loves to play on people – telling us that our emotions don’t mean something.
The word itself, depression, recalls all sorts of terrible emotions: sadness, hurt, guilt…the list goes on. Depression is an expert at bringing these feelings into the forefront of our minds and letting them rule out any positive emotion that tries to come in. Here’s the irony – sometimes that same illness will try to tell us that those emotions we’re feeling, the ones it invited to the party in the first place, are wrong. Invalid. Undeserving of our attention.
Cunning depression tells us there are those out there who have it much, much worse than you.
“I barely have enough money to make rent this month…”
“So? There are parents with families who can’t even afford meals each night.”
“I feel like absolute crap, but my boss says I have to come into work today anyway…”
“So? There are people with illnesses so terminal they have only months to live.”
“I want to hang out with my friends, but I have more important obligations…”
“Ha! Don’t even get me started!”
It’s like…your boss at work telling you to do something. You do what they ask to the letter, but then they get mad at you for it afterwards. “I did everything you wanted, depression! I let these negative emotions lord themselves over me, and now you say ‘shame on you for feeling those things.’” What even…?
It may seem that through this, depression is convincing us to be thankful for our blessings instead of our inconveniences. Indirectly, maybe. But what it’s really trying to accomplish is make your head go in circles; telling you that your emotions aren’t valid, so you feel even crappier that you felt that way in the first place, and the cycle starts anew. It’s the job of a depression-addled mind to make you feel hopeless. It rubs salt in the wound – not only do you not deserve to feel happy, but you aren’t even worth it to feel sad, or angry, or livid.
Like most of the things depression tells us, this isn’t true. Through mindfulness, we can put our emotions aside, but there is not one person on this planet who can “turn off” their emotions permanently. Again, whether we want them to exist or not, emotions are there. To deny their existence or validity only does harm to us. Your emotions matter.
I watched a YouTube video yesterday of someone talking about mental illnesses and the stigma surrounding them. So many people who are uninformed about what someone with a mental illness goes through say that we shouldn’t pay attention to our emotions. “If your depression makes you sad, just push the sadness away! You aren’t actually sad, it’s just your depression telling you that!” No. No. NO. You ARE sad. You’re upset, you’re ecstatic, you’re giddy, you’re guilt-ridden. Any emotion you feel is real, no matter if it’s brought on by a mental illness. In that YouTube video, the girl used the word “valid” a lot, and I think that’s a fantastic way to put it. Even mindfulness, the very technique that teaches us to put aside our emotions, doesn’t deny that they’re real. You have every right to feel the way you feel, at any given moment.
I feel like this post is quite scattered, so I apologize for that. The video I watched yesterday made me think about it all last night and early today, so I figured I’d put my thoughts to (digital) paper and make sense of this myself. Regardless, I stand firm on what I said. Even in the moments where we may not want them to be, emotions are real.