For most people who seek therapy, they find a feeling of catharsis in sharing their story of suffering with an objective and caring listener. On the other hand, for some, it may have to get worse before it gets better. You can think of it as cleaning out a wound, a necessary but painful process. It may bleed and be painful but the ultimate goal is for the wound to heal in a healthier manner. The purpose of counseling is to improve life satisfaction, but for some people that may require an exploration of painful memories or experiences. At first this process may create more pain before it can be alleviated effectively. Sometimes I wish it did not work that way, but I did not make the rules. I am trained to help people navigate the pain until it recedes and joy can reemerge.
But, I just want to be happy!
The problem is that our emotional brains come loaded with the whole rainbow of feelings. We must have all of them, good and bad, whether we want them or not. Lucky for us, along with sadness, anxiety, and jealousy, we also get: joy, pride, and love. So, it can be agreed that feelings as a whole are not all bad, it just so happens that not all of them are pleasant to experience. Basically if you want happy, you must have sad. If you want joy, you must have suffering. They all come together in one package of feelings, you either get all of them or you get the emptiness of none of them. I cannot reprogram your brain, but I can help you cope with the difficulties in managing, containing, and accepting the feelings that we all have.
Different feelings for different folks
Each of us have specific feelings that are more difficult for us to tolerate or accept. For instance, one woman might hate to feel jealous but have a certain tolerance for regret or sadness. The same might go for a man who feels comfortable getting angry but finds it intolerable to cry. Basically, each of us has an individual symphony of feelings made up of all kinds of varying instruments, some loud and some quiet. On top of that, making things even more complicated is the fact that we also have feelings about those feelings that occur naturally.
Why can't I just have good feelings?
What most people want is to get rid of the bad feeling they are experiencing. "I don't want to feel sad anymore." "I don't want to feel anxious anymore." Well, here is the bad news: to have the good feelings, you have to have the bad feelings. You cannot perform surgery on your psychology to remove that one pesky feeling that is the most unpleasant to you. Whether it is shame, frustration, jealousy, anger, sadness, or anxiety, we all have one or more that we could do without. I like to say that you just need more practice with your "Achilles heel" feelings.
Why do I have such problems with certain feelings?
If you are asking this question, you are on track toward feeling better. It is curiosity about your self and your feelings that leads to control and power over them. If you do not run from your feelings, your feelings will learn to run with you. The resulting knowledge about your feelings, the information about when, why, and how they happen can help unlock a feeling of confidence and satisfaction in life.
Yes, but why are certain feelings so much harder for certain people to cope with?
How does a presidential candidate handle the anxiety of public speaking while another person faints? This is a complicated question and in truth it has not been fully understood or explored by psychological researchers. What we know now is that it is a combination of an individual's inborn temperament and their childhood experience. Some babies are born calm while others are born anxious.
Do you remember the first time in your life that you felt regret? You probably have a memory that bubbles up of early regret, but my guess is that you felt it before that memory at a time when you didn't have a name for it. These first introductions to feelings occur constantly during early childhood, making up a great deal of social learning during the formative years. Now, if the parent teaching you about your feelings has problems with one of their feelings, it gets passed on. Thus, a mother who had issues with anxiety might produce offspring who have issues with anxiety. A father who can't apologize may have a daughter that struggles to feel guilt.
The Good News
The good news is that we can become comfortable with all of our feelings. We may not learn to like them, prefer them, or want them; but we can learn to tolerate and respect them. In addition, tolerance to unpleasant feelings like anxiety, envy, and frustration can be built and practiced. Just as a marathon runner will train their muscles to handle longer runs, so to can a person build endurance and tolerance to unpleasant emotions. With this, comes the power and control over our feelings that most people are looking for.