This three part series on Emotional Awareness includes what it means to be emotionally aware, the consequences of avoiding emotions, and tools to cope with emotions in a healthy way. The first part of this series defined emotional awareness and discussed some of the benefits to being emotionally aware.
This article will explore the consequences of avoiding emotions. In fact, if you are unemotionally aware, there is a strong likelihood that your feelings are running your life. They might appear in your day-to-day experience without warning and stay with you without your recognition, leading to poor decisions and unhealthy behavior. Remaining unaware of feelings only leads to the continuation of harmful behavior.
Yet, avoiding feelings is, unfortunately, quite common. Many people might avoid feelings unknowingly by watching television for hours, playing computer games, surfing the Internet, or engaging in other addictive behavior. Other ways to avoid emotions include staying numb to them, disconnecting yourself from emotions and choosing to feel no emotions at all. Another way to avoid emotions is to stick with one emotional response to all situations. For instance, anger can be a cover feeling, particularly as a way to stay away from fear or sadness. In the same way, laughter and humor can be a tactic to avoid feeling insecure and anxious.
It’s common for adolescents (and adults) who have experienced trauma to disconnect from the feelings and physical sensations that accompanied a traumatic experience. It’s typical for those suffering from teen PTSD to avoid feelings as a way to cope with the trauma experienced. A significant part of healing from teen PTSD is exploring the feelings associated with trauma and learning how to appropriately face them without becoming overwhelmed, which is precisely what happens during a traumatic event.
Not Facing Feelings
Not facing these feelings later and trying to control them leads to distorting, stifling, and even exacerbating them. The following are consequences to this:
You don’t know who you are. Your emotional life makes up who you are. More importantly, disconnecting from your emotions also severs you from your ability to respond to them, what is meaningful to you, and your ability to know your needs and wants.
You lose the good feelings too. Your ability to feel includes both the pleasant emotions as well as those that are uncomfortable. When you avoid feelings you also cut yourself off from love, compassion, joy, and gratitude.
It takes up your energy. It can be exhausting to continue to avoid emotions. Although it’s true that you can suppress emotions, the truth is, you can’t remove them entirely. Even when you are unaware of your feelings, the tendency to continue to move away from them can create more stress and leave you feeling drained.
It affects your relationships. Emotions are often the glue that brings you and others together. The more you distance yourself from your feelings, the more distance there is between you and others, as well as within yourself. A disconnect to feelings leads to poor relationships and an inability to communicate effectively.
The next article in this three part series will briefly look at the levels of emotional awareness. As well as provide tools to manage emotions safely and appropriately.