As someone who often tries to control their feelings, I know from experience how harmful it can be. Our feelings often come back stronger than ever, usually in terrifying and destructive ways. The fact is we cannot control our feelings, only how we react to them. We can avoid lashing out at someone in anger, but we cannot avoid feeling that anger forever. If we bottle up our rage or push it down deep inside of us, it won’t simply go away. Instead it lays dormant, waiting to come back to haunt us later. We must allow ourselves to feel our feelings and process them for them to truly dissipate.
On the topic of feelings and control, Anne Wilson Schaef writes:
“We have generally been taught that feelings are bad. They aren’t logical and rational. They are unruly, messy, unpredictable, and often intense. How wonderful to have such a range of expression!
Often, as children, it was not just our feelings of anger, rage, sadness, or pouting that were stifled. We were told to be quiet and equally commanded to suppress our feelings of excitement, joy, creativity, imagination, giggles, laughter, and happiness. Strangely enough, we have found that it is not possible to suppress some feelings and not others. When we push down anger, joy goes with it. When we push down rage, tenderness goes with it.
We are often told as adults that our anger must be appropriate, nonoffensive, justified, and expressed in the right way. What a joke. Trying to girdle my feelings is like trying to tie down the wind.”
Often when we seek to control our feelings, we are really trying to avoid feeling bad. Sadness, anger, fear, doubt—these are all feelings we would rather do without. We can’t have happiness without sadness though. We can’t laugh without shedding a few tears. And we certainly can’t feel calm and at peace without indulging in our anger now and then. In order to truly feel, we must embrace the full spectrum of human emotions; we can’t simply pick and choose. When we resist feeling some emotions, we dampen them all. Society has taught us to suppress our emotions to fit in, to be viewed as acceptable, to please others. Humans are thinking, feeling beings however. To feel is to be normal. The sooner we recognize this and are honest with ourselves and each other about how we feel, the sooner we become the happy, healthy people we are meant to be.