Jul 19 • 4M

137. Feeling Is Not Failure

Humans feel all the time.

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Sometimes people labor under the misconception that in order to recover they must learn to never feel things. Being sad or afraid is instantly called failure, triggering a desperate search for magic tips that will keep those reactions from happening.

Recovery is not about learning to be a robot. I have never said that and never will.

When you are anxious, afraid, uncertain, and feeling vulnerable, you WILL have feelings and emotional reactions to that. How could you not? You are human, and alive. You WILL feel things when confronted with a challenge like recovery, especially one that can stretch out for a longer period of time. Some days you’ll feel pride, accomplishment, and even happiness or joy. You never call that failure, right?

So, please stop looking for ways to not feel emotions. Your emotions are just fine. There’s no need to prevent them from happening or to declare them to be disastrous.

When we break this down, the issue is not your emotions at all. The real issue is that you have likely developed the habit, maybe dating back long before your anxiety problems, of treating your emotions as automatically the most important things in the room at all times. I can totally understand how this happens. We are immersed in an ocean of self-help, personal development, and mental health “advice” all squarely based on the idea that everything you feel always matters and must be examined, honored, decoded, deciphered and unpacked. Everywhere we turn we are told that we must get in touch with our emotions and find the hidden meaning in them all the damn time. We are told again and again that our emotions are VERY important.

So if you are deeply enmeshed with every emotion, thought, feeling, and sensation, I understand why. Many people have been taught that this is the proper way to be a human.

Sometimes wellness and growth is found along that path, but not always. Sometimes we just have to accept the fact that our bodies and brains are not perfect, nor are our souls. We have to at least consider the possibility that it really is OK to disregard some of what they throw at us. Sometimes emotions and thoughts are not important at all. This is one of the foundational concepts when dealing with anxiety disorders. Yes, it is is often completely counterintuitive. Yes, it can seem somewhat cold or even de-humanizing and invalidating. And yes, you may not like this idea from a humanistic or spiritual standpoint.

But what we like and don’t like don’t really enter into this. We don’t need warm, fuzzy, or easy to grasp. We only need effective.