A friend was complaining to me about his difficulties with his pastor. He said “I feel angry, but I know I shouldn’t feel these negative emotions.”
We naturally describe emotions as positive (joy, wonder, love) and negative (anger, sadness, anxiety) based on whether we enjoy them. We enjoy feeling happy; we don’t enjoy feeling angry. Yet these descriptions lead to bad thinking about our emotions. We say “I shouldn’t feel angry” and try to feel differently by willpower. This only serves to submerge our emotions to the point that we don’t even know what we feel.
The better way is to honestly feel the emotions and decide how to respond. Rather than say “I shouldn’t feel angry,” it is better to admit to the anger, explore why it exists, and decide how to respond to it. As the saying goes, “You can’t heal what you can’t feel.”
Emotions provide information about our internal states. The information may be a misguided response to what’s going on, but it is still useful information.