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Judging Our Emotions

The importance of accepting our complex inner worlds and listening to our emotions, even the painful ones.

In recovery, we can often fall into the pitfall of over-emphasizing positive thinking. This overemphasis can cause us to judge our emotions and label them as either good or bad, positive or negative, correct or incorrect. We’re doing our best to avoid relapse and focus on our sobriety. This can result in trying to avoid emotions that might cause us to relapse,  trigger us, or upset us, and that might contribute to our depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues. We’ve spent years of our lives seeing certain emotions as the cause of our difficulties. We see our grief and sadness, our fear and anxiety, and our anger and rage, as the reasons why we drink, use drugs, or engage in addictive behaviors. However, this is simply not the case. We all have an array of emotions. It’s our reactions to those emotions that can cause addictive patterns, negative cycles, and relapse.

When we judge our emotions, we infuse them with negative connotations and associations. As a result, we will often try to remove them from our minds and hearts because we’re afraid of feeling them. We try to rid ourselves of them. Our addictions become our means of escaping them, our distraction tactics, and our way of self-medicating from them. We are resisting our emotions rather than embracing them. We have yet to get to the place where we have full acceptance of them. When we learn to have awareness around our emotions, we start to see that they don’t have to be as debilitating as we once allowed them to be. They don’t have to control or overpower us. They don’t have to mean we are stopped by them, controlled by them, or deterred by them. We can move through them rather than reacting to them. We don’t have to panic, shut down or lash out. We don’t have to become paralyzed by them, frozen in fear, unable to do anything at all.

Our emotions are powerful indicators of where we still have healing work to do, what areas of our lives are calling for our attention, and what parts of us we might have been neglecting. Our emotions cover a broad spectrum, and we’ve grown accustomed to prioritizing certain feelings over others. We want to feel happy, and we don’t want to feel sad. We want to feel confident, and we reject feeling afraid. When we start to see the full spectrum of our emotions as important to our mental and emotional health, we learn that accepting how we feel enables us to learn so much more about our emotional lives than rejecting these very important parts of ourselves. Our anger might be telling us we have work to do to forgive others, while our shame might be encouraging us to forgive ourselves. It’s important to tune in and listen to these emotions, rather than run from them. Our grief is showing us we haven’t fully come to terms with an important loss, and maybe we haven’t mourned in a way that helps us to honor that loss. Our panic and anxiety might be showing us what fears we have yet to confront within ourselves. When we look at our emotions head-on rather than running from them, we can figure out what they are trying to tell us, what they have to offer us, and what they can teach us.

Being open to our emotions means we’re more receptive to learning from them. We can ask ourselves some exploratory questions to help ourselves dig deeper. What am I feeling in this moment? What can I do with these emotions? How can I accept them, move through them and live with them, rather than trying to banish or reject them? What are my emotions trying to show me about what areas of my life and my inner world still need healing? What emotions have I been avoiding, resisting and refusing to give attention to? What suppressed feelings are still causing me pain?

Emotional openness, honesty, and clarity enable us to have an energy of problem-solving, while resistance, avoidance, denial, and suppression only compound our problems. When we’re open to our emotions, we open ourselves to the solutions we’re looking for about how to heal ourselves. When we’re struggling with addiction, our tendency is often to avoid our problems. Our drugs of choice become our means of escaping everything we don’t want to deal with in life. Our emotions show us, though, that can’t avoid the true healing work. The more we avoid feeling our emotions, the more we stall our recovery and perpetuate our suffering.

Once we’ve achieved sobriety, especially when we’re newly sober, we can feel as though we’re walking on eggshells with ourselves, tiptoeing through minefields of explosive emotions. We’re used to being highly reactive and emotional. We’re accustomed to not knowing how to handle our difficult emotions. We’ve gotten used to judging certain emotions as the ones we want to feel and the ones we want to avoid. As we come to learn, our recovery is about much more than abstaining from our drug of choice. It’s also just as important for us to learn how to cope with the many different emotions that naturally arise within us. If we don’t, then anything might end up being a trigger for relapse for us. Anything might throw us off balance and disturb our precarious sense of equilibrium. True healing means being so grounded, centered, and secure within ourselves that we can allow ourselves to feel all of our emotions, even the painful ones, without numbing ourselves or judging our myriad emotions.

At The Guest House Ocala, we are uniquely equipped to help our guests heal from trauma-induced substance abuse, process addiction, anxiety and depression in a safe, comfortable and confidential setting. Call 855-483-7800 today for more information on our treatment programs.