Learn to Accept Your Emotions

October 6, 2015

“Worrying is silly.””It’s not worth it.” “You have no reason to be sad.” “Come on, stop crying.” “You have to get over it.” How many times have we heard phrases like these being said with the best intentions?

We’ve received this advice and we’ve given it as well. This advice seems good and wise. However, what happens when we try to apply it? It doesn’t work. There is no cure-all formula. 

Unfortunately, our emotions don’t follow orders or bend to our will. It’s not enough to want to change how we feel. Emotions are there and they don’t change easily.

Wisdom is the art of accepting what can’t be changed, changing what can be and, above all, knowing the difference.

When others tell us to feel differently, or we tell ourselves to change our emotions, we’re likely to feel frustrated. Feeling good becomes an obligation, and when we can’t fulfill it, we feel dumb, guilty, and think that everyone else can handle their emotions except us.

This creates a vicious cycle and we sink further and further into negativity. The bigger the obligation to feel good and not care about things, the bigger the problem in our mind becomes and the worse we feel.

Break the cycle

A quote that’s often attributed to Einstein, although it is unknown whether he actually said it, is: “If you’re looking for different results, don’t keep doing the same thing over and over.” Whether or not it was the scientific genius who said it, it sure is a smart phrase.

How do you escape a vicious cycle? By taking a different step.

Observe and accept

Instead of fighting against negative emotions, let’s try to accept them. That doesn’t mean we should give in to the fact that they will never change, but rather should give ourselves the permission to feel them. Yes, I’m sad. Yes, this is important to me and it worries me.

Let’s observe with open minds, without judging ourselves, because those trials will always declare us guilty. Let’s not fight an endless battle, because fighting tires us and leaves us adrift in the sea.

Know that your emotions are valid

There are no good emotions or bad emotions. They are all parts of the same thing, and they all make us human. It’s human to have ups and downs and emotional changes. That is the current of life, and we already know how useless it can be to swim against the current.

Consider all of your emotions valid. Feel them without trying to change them. Learn to identify them, understand them (yours and everyone else’s), and take them seriously. You will begin to realize that they follow their own path and run their course, one continuously replacing another.


Practice with others

Acceptance doesn’t only apply to you. When someone feels bad, try out this technique. Put yourself in their shoes, join them, and feel along with the other person. Empathize and accept their emotions as valid.

If they ask for advice, give it, but don’t judge them. Don’t make them feel dumb or in the wrong. Offer to accompany them, talk if they need it, or respect their silence. Live the emotional experience and let the other person live it as well.

Be strong

Remember that pain is an inevitable part of life, and that positive experiences only have value thanks to negative ones. The contrast gives them meaning. How could we say that we’re happy or content if we’ve never been sad?

Respect your own suffering as you respect others’, and don’t punish yourself by imposing obligations on yourself. You have a right to feel bad, to cry, or worry about certain situations.

Don’t give up, the pain will also pass

Of course, to accept and respect doesn’t mean to give up and do nothing. It means to give ourselves the time, space, and moment we need for the emotion to happen. Afterwards and with a better understanding of our emotions, we will be able to decide if there is something we can do to better the situation.

Eventually, the pain will pass, positive emotions will arrive, and then it will be even more important to put into practice what we’ve learned. We will have to address what we feel, observe ourselves and be conscious. And we’ll know better than ever what it means to feel good. Because feeling good and bad, ultimately, is to feel human.