“The only way out is through.” – Robert Frost
Who would have thought that positive thinking could also have negative consequences? Not really, of course. Positivity is good, but not when it means brushing your negative feelings under the rug.
Every day, you experience a range of emotions, from joy and gratitude to sadness and frustration. It may seem tempting to avoid or suppress negative emotions, but allowing yourself to feel those emotions is essential for your well-being. This is where constructive suffering comes into play. It is the art of embracing your emotions in a conscious and constructive way, and it can have a profound positive effect on your life.
What happens when you don't allow yourself to feel your emotions?
Firstly, they often get bottled up and suppressed. This can lead to a buildup of tension and emotional burden, making it harder to experience joy and satisfaction. Suppressed emotions can also cause physical symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches, and insomnia.
Moreover, ignoring your emotions can lead to negative coping mechanisms such as overeating, alcohol or drug abuse, or excessive use of social media. These behaviors often serve as temporary "escape routes," but they do not provide sustainable solutions and can even lead to further problems.
So, how can you embrace constructive suffering and process your emotions in a healthy way? One useful technique you can use is the "TRUTH" technique by Tina Gilbertson, which helps you acknowledge and understand your emotions.
The technique works as follows:
- Tell yourself the situation
Start by becoming aware of the situation that is bothering you. Identify and acknowledge the factual events that have taken place.
- Realize what you're feeling
Allow yourself to become consciously aware of your emotions. Acknowledge and label them without judgment. Whether it's sadness, anger, fear, or disappointment, give yourself permission to feel.
Pay attention to any negative thoughts or self-criticism that arises. Recognize that these thoughts can prevent you from fully experiencing and processing your emotions. Sometimes you may think that you're not "allowed" to have certain feelings, but if, for example, you feel anger, there is no ethical dimension to it. You feel what you feel, and there's nothing you can do about it. It's simply a signal that something is not okay. Of course, it's a different story if you engage in negative behavior out of anger.
- Try to understand yourself
Go deeper and try to understand why you feel a certain way. Ask yourself questions such as: Why does this situation affect me so much? Which personal beliefs or values are being triggered? Try to show understanding for yourself, without reasoning everything away. Just try to figure out what the feeling is trying to tell you.
Allow yourself to fully experience your emotions without judgment. Don't be afraid to be sad, angry, or anxious. Acknowledge that these feelings are normal and human. Give yourself the space to cry, scream, or just be silent. Let the emotions flow through you without suppressing them.
Strategies for constructive suffering
Constructive suffering doesn't mean losing yourself in your emotions or getting trapped in them. It's about being consciously present with your feelings and processing them in a healthy way. Here are some strategies you can apply for constructive suffering:
- Talking and sharing: Seek support from friends, family, or a therapist. Talk about your feelings and share your experiences. This can help you process your emotions and gain new perspectives.
- Writing: Keep a journal where you can write down your thoughts and feelings. Writing can be a therapeutic outlet and help you better understand your emotions.
- Listen to music that resonates with what you're feeling to better empathize with your emotions.
- Meditation and mindfulness: Practice meditation or mindfulness to increase your awareness of the present moment. This can help you observe your emotions without getting entangled in them. By developing a non-judgmental and accepting mindset, you can cultivate a greater sense of self-awareness and emotional balance.
- Healthy self-care: Take good care of yourself by getting enough rest, engaging in physical exercise, and consuming nutritious food. Allow yourself time to relax and participate in activities that bring you joy and fulfillment.
- Seek professional help if needed: If you find that your emotions are overwhelming or you're struggling to process them on your own, don't hesitate to seek professional help. A trained therapist can guide and support you in processing your emotions effectively.
A journey towards insight and well-being
Remember that constructive suffering is a process that requires time and patience. It's important to be gentle and compassionate with yourself throughout this journey. Emotions can provide valuable insights and can help you grow and change. By allowing yourself to feel, understand, and grow, you can have a profound positive impact on your well-being and quality of life.
So, allow yourself to feel, understand, and grow. The butterfly effect of constructive suffering can have a significant impact on your life and help you thrive in your personal growth and well-being. And when negative emotions are acknowledged, positive thinking truly becomes effective.
Reading tip Gilbertson Tina, Constructive wallowing, How to beat bad feelings by letting yourself have them, Piatkus, 2014