But it seems that at least since the 1960s all feelings are considered worthy of expression and exploration.
We’ve bought the idea that because jealousy, pain, outrage, hatred, schadenfreude, righteous indignation, and deep sadness occur “naturally,” therefore they are healthy. Because we all have moments when we feel these feelings, they are therefore authentic. Authenticity is very important in this “age of feelings.”
Even jealousy, hatred, anger, and other intense, negative feelings are considered valid. We’re actually breaking a rule of political correctness by calling them “negative.” But these feelings hurt. Whether or not they are justified in certain circumstances is another question, but we’ve noticed a slippery slope whereby no one is really allowed to make that call anymore lest they be labeled narrow-mindedly judgmental.
Some industries thrive on negative feelings and the negative experiences that at least initially provoke them. The gossip column has been replaced by the gossip web site. When the aggrieved make the talk show rounds, they are encouraged to re-experience the events that triggered these feelings over and over again. In some talk therapy too individuals are encouraged to talk about negative feelings to get to the root of them, thus purging them.
But this focus talking about feelings doesn’t always purge. At least sometimes, and probably more than sometimes, talking delivers the opposite effect.
It is true, there are many times we must talk about our feelings and the events that preceded them. Sometimes we must even talk about them numerous times in order to process them (to understand and resolve them).
Whether you are a therapist, a clergy-member, or simply a good friend, it is important to be a kind and considerate listener. It is vital that you not try to brush away genuine feelings caused by traumatic or hurtful situations. How much time it takes varies case by case. But in many cases, going over and over painful situations and the feelings they engender is not necessarily healthy and conducive to personal growth.
More and more it seems to be that we are encouraged to focus intently on and repeatedly talk about what’s bothering us. In talk shows, audiences join in the outrage. This often justifies and concretizes negative feelings instead of relieving them.
By surrendering to negative feelings, by venting over and over again, these feelings can spiral out of control.
Then you don’t own the feelings, the feelings own you; mind, body and soul.
In order for change to happen, we have to believe that change is needed. If you feel justifying or embracing your negative feelings serves you, there is no way you’ll want to proactively enter into a plan to stop these feelings.
If every single time you have a negative feeling you seek to validate it, you might not realize when your feelings are out of proportion, unwarranted, or overblown.
Of course, there are numerous reasons why a person might have negative feelings, and some of them may be symptoms of a mental illness, so other treatment might be necessary.
But if not, don’t let those feelings own you. Consider it a step in the path of personal growth to own those feelings and move on.