We need to stop making “negative” emotions wrong, and instead learn how to embrace them to catalyze growth.
In Sports, Our Frustration is a Badge of Honor
When I go to the gym, I expect to sweat. I expect to have off-days. Building endurance and strength are not linear progressions. I may have a period of progress, followed by a period of stagnancy, and even decline.
I expect the same thing in my flying trapeze and trampoline training. Flying trapeze is a sport of “one step forward and three steps back.” Progress often comes in spurts, after long periods of setbacks and frustration. There are many moments when I feel like my efforts are hopeless. I work on the same skills and tricks for months, if not years.
If you participate in any type of challenging athletic pursuit, you know that this is normal. In fact, not only do we give ourselves the space to feel this frustration, we often embrace it with pride.
We know that the missed shots, the strikeouts, the golf balls hit into the sand traps or the water are part of the process of the sport. It just is. And these moments may make us frustrated or angry, but we embrace this. We use that emotion as fuel to return to practice the next day, to continue on the path of improvement.
Why do we change our approach when it comes to other areas of life?
We hit a rough patch in our work, and suddenly that same frustration or anger or fear is now a “problem.” The same emotion that was part of the process in our sport is now a “negative.”
Why do we have so much trouble embracing these emotions in other areas of our life?
Why do we believe that we “shouldn’t” feel frustration, disappointment, or anger?
And why are we so uncomfortable with public displays of the “negative” emotions?
The struggle is part of the creative process. Frustration is essential to growth. Suppressing these feelings only hurts us.
What Happens When We Tell People “Don’t Get Emotional”
I cringe when I hear a parent tell a child to “stop crying,” or when I hear someone say “don’t get so emotional.” Nobody ever says this to someone who is laughing.
If you want to know how this affects a society over time. look around at the state of the world. This is what happens when we teach people not to feel certain emotions when we teach them to avoid pain.
Maybe it’s Time for a New Approach
Life is emotion. But you don’t get to choose. If you want to feel the highs, you have to be willing to feel the lows. Otherwise, you numb yourself to everything. If you’re not feeling, you’re dead.
Frustration, anger, disappointment, and fear are normal. And it serves us to treat them as such.
I’m not saying we need to live in those places full-time. That wouldn’t be pleasant, or healthy. But suppressing, ignoring, or escaping these emotions doesn’t serve us either. Those suppressed emotions cause physical pains. This is not woo-woo. This is science.
Learn How to Use Your Pain
The secret of success is learning how to use pain and pleasure instead of having pain and pleasure use you. If you do that, you’re in control of your life. If you don’t, life controls you. — Tony Robbins
We build our physical muscles by working them to the point where the fibers tear. As the fibers repair themselves, the muscle gain strength. This is how we build our emotional, mental, and spiritual muscles as well.
You cannot heal what you are unwilling to feel. The “negative” emotions give us clues about where something isn’t working, or where we are not aligned. They direct us to what we need to change. If you don’t feel the feelings, you cannot see the clues, and you won’t change.
No change, no progress.
Nothing is wrong with you. You don’t need to be fixed.
You just need to feel.
So go ahead. Get emotional.