Accept Your Emotions

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Most of us want our pleasant feelings to last forever but they don’t and want our unpleasant feelings to go away as quickly as possible yet they sometimes linger. Emotions, just like everything else in life, are transitory. They are not meant to be permanent states of being. Changing your attitude towards both your pleasant and unpleasant feelings can change your life.

I spent some time considering pleasant feelings and the image that kept popping up was fruit. When fruit is ripe you consume it. It’s delicious and then it’s gone. You don’t cry over the loss because you know you ate it at its peak. If you try to hang on too long the fruit will become sickly sweet and inedible. When we try to hold onto desirable emotions the same thing happens. They change form and lose the qualities that made them appealing in the first place.

Take as one example being out with friends and having a good time for most of the evening. But maybe you can’t pull yourself away when you are actually ready to go. What if you miss something epic? Your subjective experience changes from lighthearted and fun to feeling a sense of burden, yet you try to ignore this change and just keep going. By desperately trying to make a pleasant emotion stick around it changes form and becomes a grotesque version of its former self.

We try to hold onto pleasant emotions when they have passed their prime, and conversely many of us try to ignore, minimize, or run away from the feelings we consider unpleasant. Some of us hope they will go away simply by denying their existence. Instead they linger for days, weeks, months, or even years, constantly flitting at the edge of conscious thought. So the emotions we really want in our lives seem to slip through our fingers while the emotions we are trying to avoid stick around much longer than they were meant to.

A way to increase your emotional health is by gently touching your unpleasant feelings, giving them their rightful place in your life and the time they deserve. Thich Nhat Hanh uses the image of a mother who runs to comfort a crying baby. She doesn’t know exactly what’s wrong, but the simple act of showing gentle concern usually provides relief all by itself. You don’t have to try to change what you are feeling, you just have to give yourself permission to accept it. Instead of trying to roughly push your unpleasant feelings away cradle them gently. Accept your emotions. Give them time to communicate their important message, and when they are ready to leave they will.