This seems like an easy question.
And, in one sense, it is. The easy answer is …
“YES, it is okay to feel whatever emotion you experience.”
This is true whether:
1. You grew up being taught (or learned as an adult) that feelings should be avoided because they are bad, “unladylike”, messy, impure, or dangerous
- The correctional staff I worked with viewed all emotions as both messy and to be avoided as unnecessary because they “got in the way of” their doing their jobs.
- The incarcerated young women I worked with viewed emotions as hurtful and dangerous because they “caused” these young women to hurt others or themselves.
- The professional women who interacted with me on LinkedIn noted that they were demeaned when they attempted to express their anger in a work setting.
2. You were never taught how to master your feelings so avoiding them was the easiest way to cope.
- This was my experience.
3. You tend to do dumb or hurtful things when you experience strong feelings, you blamed the feelings, and you chose to avoid them if you could
4. and so forth.
Indeed, the question has two underlying assumptions that are not obvious..
- The first assumption is that there are some emotions you might choose to experience and some emotions that you might choose not to experience.
There are two parts to this assumption.
The first part is that there are good and bad feeling and you might want to eliminate the bad ones
The second part is that there are emotions which feel good and others which feel bad and you might want to eliminate the ones that feel bad.
2. The second assumption is that you have a choice whether you experience some emotions and not others.
Let me address these two underlying assumptions.
The first assumption above is based on the emotional myth that the emotions that feel “good” are the ones you want to keep and the ones that feel “bad”, or hurt, you might want to eliminate.
This myth, while sometimes upheld in articles, is incorrect.
The truth is that all emotions are just tools that provide you with information that you can adaptively utilize to improve your life and your relationships.
There are no “good” or “bad” emotions. There are only emotional tools.
While it is true that some emotions such as happy, enthusiastic, and pride which “feel” good in that they are uplifting and lead to you engaging in an activity with renewed energy and interest and some emotions such as anxiety, sadness, guilt and jealousy which “feel” bad in that they might lead you to withdraw from an activity or from other people or result in a sense that you or what you have done are inferior and worthy of contempt, how you experience the emotion does not reflect at all on the value of that emotion as a tool.
A car can be used as a life-saving tool to get you to the hospital for needed medical care or, as we have seen in the news, it can be used as a murder weapon when it driven into a crowd of people.
We don’t label the car as good or bad although we clearly could put a label on how it was deployed.
As all emotions are a source of valuable information about how you perceive your surroundings and a source of motivation to deal with your surroundings, I suggest that you welcome all your emotions and learn how to master them as tools so that the information they provide to you can guide you to make better decisions.
So, even if you could eliminate an emotion, which you can’t as I’ll show below, you would not want to.
Let me give you another example.
No one really likes to experience pain and we have a variety of ways to minimize our pain. But, pain, serves an important purpose in that it alerts us to a situation which requires our attention whether it is stopping what we are doing, getting help and first aid or more rest, and so forth. My nephew has no sensation below his waist from a congenital condition. Should there be a “threat” to his lower extremities which was not immediately obvious, he would not know about it.
Emotions provide us with important information and prepare us to deal with that information. You do, in fact, want all the emotions you can get.
The second assumption shows a lack of understanding how the emotional process works.
The emotional process, which includes the unconscious scanning of your surroundings and the initial emotional reaction, occurs out of your awareness and, therefore, is not controllable by you.
By the way, if you ever need your emotions to alert you to a life-threatening situation which is not obvious but from which you need to escape NOW, you would want this part of the emotional process to be beyond your control.
As you can see if you download the free PDF of the anger mastery cycle by clicking on the link which will take you to another page on this site, the cycle contains an unconscious and a conscious set of actions.
Once you become aware of your emotion, you can inhibit your initial reaction but you cannot eliminate it.
Controlling your emotional reaction is the basis of anger management courses. It is useful but often inadequate.
The conscious part of the emotional process which includes validating the initial emotional reaction, assessing the match between your initial perception and the situation, and choosing an appropriate response is in your control and constitutes emotional mastery.
The same is true whether you are mastering anger or mastering an emotion such as envy, anxiety, or jealousy.
In my books, I recommend going beyond managing your emotions and learning to master your emotions by choosing an appropriate response.
You can access prior posts on mastering anger and anxiety as well as jealousy and envy by clicking on the index tab above.
If you are registered, I welcome your comments.