eMOTIONAL mATTERS: iT'S aLL RIGHT TO CRY
As a mental health clinician, it is a privilege to support others on the healing journey toward growth and self-actualization. The journey is not always clear, and the path forward can be laden with emotions of distrust, shame, guilt, anger and hurt.
A frustrated and tearful 12-year-old asked, “Ms. GC, since you are a counselor, you don’t get mad, do you? Grown-ups don’t get it! Kids can’t just ignore anger because it will just get worse.” That child was correct!
Negative emotions and thoughts left without appropriate direction can aimlessly roam the body exacerbating (or causing) chronic illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity, autoimmune disorders, cellular aging, fatigue, and more. Emotions and thoughts can make us sick. This is known to be true because every emotion contains a neurochemical consequence in the brain. For example, chronic stress causes the hippocampus to secrete the hormone, cortisol. When the hippocampus is releasing cortisol, it is not able to create neurons for memory – resulting in poorer memory.
Some people say, “Well, I don’t have to worry about my emotions harming me because I am not emotional. I am a person of logic.”
Despite what tends to be perpetuated, emotions and logic are not opposite of each other; emotions fuel logic. The book, The Body Keeps the Score (Bessel van der Kolk, 2014) tells us that emotions are the foundation of logic. It is when these two systems are in harmony that we feel good.
How do we harmoniously stay on that path to self-actualization and mental wellness? First, know that human beings are emotional creatures. Emotions allow us to connect with others, feel pleasure, inform actions, self-protect, and to survive. Ignoring negative emotions can cause them to be trapped in the subconscious and, again, lead to the chronic conditions mentioned above. Instead of ignoring emotions, allow yourself to connect with what you are feeling.
One way of connecting to your emotions is to make a list of every emotion of which you can think. This list will be helpful in broadening your emotion vocabulary. Next, use a notebook or a journal to record the events, emotions, and thoughts you experience. Your entries will be useful in raising self-awareness and can be used during therapy sessions.
Another tool on the roadmap forward is mindfulness practices, such as meditation. In this case, find a quiet place to sit comfortably. Close your eyes and actively think of the people who love you. Hold on to that sense of being loved. The sense of feeling loved triggers oxytocin. Oxytocin is the hormone that will send positive neurochemicals deep into the brain signaling the amygdala that all is well.
Try it. Raised emotional awareness and professional guidance can change the emotions of distrust, shame, anger, and hurt into those of gratitude, acceptance, joy, and love. It is all right to cry. Crying is not a sign of weakness but a way of expressing the energized sensations of sadness, hurt, anger, and often joy.
As always, I am here to help.
Your comments are invited.