We all experience a wide range of emotions in our daily lives, whether we choose to tune into them or not. We tend to notice when we’re feeling ‘positive’ emotions such as happiness, joy or love.  But many of us have a tendency to block out our ‘negative’ emotions, such as fear, anger, disappointment or shame. This can lead us into destructive patterns and behaviours and a reduced quality of life.  When we can learn to make sense of our difficult emotions we can have a happier, more fulfilled and connected life.

‘Making sense’ of our difficult emotions  means firstly we acknowledge that we’re feeling them (which is often easier said than done).  Secondly, we have to understand why we’re feeling them and what they’re trying to tell us. Thirdly, we need to look back into our past and find out where they originate from. (more on that in a future article!)

Difficult emotions are uncomfortable, and make us feel bad. It makes complete sense why we would want to block them out! But there are many reasons why making sense of these emotions is a good thing. 

Here’s 5 good reasons why making sense of difficult emotions matters: 

1. Let go of unhelpful patterns and behaviours

Our unhelpful patterns and behaviours are intimately linked with our difficult emotions. We develop these patterns because our subconscious wants us to avoid feeling those difficult things. 

For example, you might have a habit of overworking and keeping yourself constantly busy. That could be because secretly you’re trying to avoid feeling ashamed and ‘less than’.

You might have a pattern of procrastination or avoidance, because deep down you have anxiety about something related to that thing you’re avoiding. 

Maybe you have a habit of choosing the wrong partner, because underneath you fear being alone, and ‘anyone’ is better than having no-one. 

If we look closely at our unhelpful patterns we can link them to a difficult emotion we’re trying to avoid. By making sense of these emotions, we can create new behaviours which better serve our needs. And that will help us to become both happier and healthier. I’ve written more about this here.

2.  Improve your relationships.

Misunderstandings, tension and conflict in relationships can often be traced back to one or both partners having unprocessed difficult emotions. We can often ‘act out’ these emotions without even knowing we have them.  Being moody, irritable or constantly picking fights with your partner is a sure sign that something deeper is going on. 

You might be feeling frustrated that they don’t seem to notice all the work you do around the house. You might be feeling angry or resentful that your partner seems to have money for the things they want, but you or the kids have to go without. 

Making sense of those difficult emotions will enable you to see clearly what’s going on. You’ll know what you need to communicate to put things right.  This will empower you to improve your relationship and feel more connected and fulfilled. 

3. Let go of suffering and give yourself the gift of self-compassion.

Our body and mind are intricately connected. If you don’t deal with your difficult emotions, you can have all sorts of physical,  emotional and relational issues.  

Physical:  You can have headaches, back pain, digestive problems, eczema and other skin problems.  This is your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong. 

Emotional : When you suppress difficult emotions, that can lead to depression, addictions and compulsive behaviours.  Explosive anger episodes can be a mask for underlying sadness, fear and shame. 

Relational: When you suppress difficult emotions you could end up avoiding social contact. You might withdraw from the world because it’s too overwhelming. This might leave you feeling numb and disconnected from yourself, and less able to be in close relationship with others.

But we’re not meant to suffer. We are here to enjoy life and to contribute to the planet and to each other with openness, love and compassion. When you decide to make sense of those difficult emotions you’re giving yourself the gift of self-compassion. And you’re allowing yourself to become the person you’re meant to be in this life.

4. Free up your emotional bucket, so you can experience more of the ‘good’ stuff.

We can think of our emotional capacity as being like a bucket. That bucket can only hold so much before it gets full and nothing else can be added. When you suppress those difficult emotions such as sadness, anger, or shame they just clog up your bucket. That leaves no room for any of the wholesome ‘positive’ emotions such as joy, love, connection and belonging. 

When you can make sense of your difficult emotions, that will free up space in your bucket. Then you’ll have more capacity to experience all the ‘good’ stuff that we’re really meant to feel, more of the time.

5. Have a positive impact on the next generation and leave a lasting legacy.

When you make sense of your difficult emotions, you’ll begin to think, feel and behave more authentically.  You’ll be able to respond to those around you in a more loving, and truthful way. Your children or grandchildren will see the effect this has on you, and will feel the benefits for themselves. 

It might seem insignificant, but when you start to take care of your emotional life it has a ripple effect. You start to become a positive role model for those younger people around you.  And in a world where our mental health is  often sidelined, you’re making an important statement.  You’re showing that caring for your emotional and mental wellbeing is a normal,  everyday thing to do.  Your future descendants will thank you.