Breakup Advice: Emotion regulation

Are there "good" vs. "bad" emotions??

Are there “good” vs. “bad” emotions??

It’s a little known fact that there is no such thing as a good or bad emotion. I think this is a good place to start, especially since we tend to “feel bad” about “feeling bad.” Don’t.

Emotions simply are what they are; we just attach a good or bad label to them after we experience them. There are plenty of reasons why we do this: Societal messages, religion, family values, pharmaceutical commercials, our efforts to try and make sense of this world, etc… Plus the obvious that it’s natural to think feeling happy is good and feeling sad is bad. I’m not trying to rally against these reasons; I’m just saying there are reasons why we do this.

The idea that emotions are neither “good” nor “bad” blew my mind the first time I had to think about itas it was such an engrained concept. But the fish does not know it’s swimming in water. It’s sometimes easier to think of things in extremes. Consider a really “bad” emotion:  Hopelessness. This has to be one of the most painful emotions a person can experience. It implies a consistent, never ending dread with a sense of “I can’t believe I have to drag my carcass through another day.”

My point is that hopelessness, in and of itself, isn’t a “bad” feeling. It’s just a feeling. We certainly do not want to experience it, but saying to yourself that feeling hopeless is “bad” is like saying it’s “bad” to feel the rain on your face (Linehan). You have no control over the touch receptors on your skin just like you have no control over the limbic system in your brain that facilitates your initial emotions. You’re blaming yourself for something you have zero control over, which is not the most helpful method to recover.

What you do have control over is how you respond to these emotions… And, that starts with recognizing that they are neither good nor bad.

– Tom

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