I believe the overwhelming majority of people who suffer from mental illness are mostly suffering from emotional illiteracy.
Illiterate, from the Latin illiteratus “unlearned, ignorant,” is the perfect word to describe our collective lack of knowledge about emotions. It is not our fault that we do not know. Luckily, the pain and discomfort of certain emotions will simply kick us in the bum enough to begin searching for solutions.
While I am not going to get into the extreme spectrum of mental health here, I want the general public to be advised on some basic emotional experiences so their initial emotional symptoms do not have to become incapacitating.
Let’s stir the pot here and marinate in some questions:
- Do you let yourself cry?
- If your life is going well, are you allowed to feel badly?
- Is anger ok to feel?
- Do you avoid conflict, and shove down your emotions while simultaneously replaying scenarios in your head of the things you should have said or will say?
- Did you know your body is like an emotional digestive system that can process and release emotional energy no matter how big or small?
Now that you are stirred, what do you do with these sensations?
Shove them down, then try to skip to the point?
You, and most people.
No problem, I will guide you.
The sensations and feelings you have are actually little guides giving you information about your life. But, when we shove them down over and over and over, they get gunked up and misunderstood. They become problems we try to make go away.
But remember, we never knew another way, so there’s no shame in trying to get help or relief in order to get by in life. Life is tough, this much we know.
But now what? What are the other ways?
Let’s study the 2 major sources of emotional pain that activate my clients to seek me out.
Anxiety and Depression.
Waking up with a feeling you are already behind.
Inability to truly feel present nor grateful, even if logically “you should.”
Fear you are missing something, and hypervigilence about making mistakes or doing something wrong.
Never arriving, never feeling satisfied.
Going to bed with multiple files open in your mind, unable to trust things are ok and it is safe to rest.
What’s the point?
What’s the minimum amount of effort I can put in then drink, eat, go to bed, have sex, whatever will alleviate and distract from the sinking pit of despair just below the surface.
A hole within, that nothing fills, and lasts forever.
Sometimes we can flip flop between both. And sometimes certain personality types will logically land on one more than the other.
I’ve personally experienced both, and big time.
What I wish I knew then?
- Emotions only FEEL like they are a deep, dark, endless hole of forever and if you feel them fully you will die or go crazy or cannot cope with your day to day responsibilities.
- They are not forever, including happiness and peace. There is an emotional spectrum, just like colours or notes in music. We were meant to have the spectrum of emotions to navigate our life and have full-formed experiences.
- Emotions are not jerks, nor punishment.
- You can re-train yourself to trust your body enough to process the sensations and emotional energies so they can properly flow through you, not get stuck and pile up like most people experience. This backlog is exactly why they feel SO big, and forever-ish.
- You do not heal emotions in your mind (aka. playing things over and over trying to understand or analyze them). You must be integrated with your heart and body, and ideally your Spirit/Soul.
- Understanding your emotions is not always necessary, but accepting them is.
- As you begin to work with your emotional energy, you will feel feelings and this is OK?! Feeling feelings is like reclaiming a map to live your life. They are meant to help you access your truth and navigate relationships and choices.
My favourite tools to help?
Fitness or Walking in Nature
Trusted guides or professionals
Art-drawing, singing, dance, music
For some of these tools go to jennasmithcoaching.com
*Disclaimer. This article is only for people with manageable feelings of anxiety and depression. There are more severe mental illnesses that this article is not intended for. This is also not advice to go off any medications, as sometimes those are needed to bridge to the healthy resourced state you seek. ONLY talk to your doctor about your care when it comes to your individual case.