I posted before on the movie, Inside Out. I really like that movie because it seems to justify emotions, and a need for a range of emotions. Many people come to therapy to try to eliminate anxiety or depression. For some, they need help to better manage the emotions, but they never really go away. Emotions serve a purpose and help us better understand situations, prepare for things, and recover from trauma. They need to be understood, not completely eliminated.
In talking with people in treatment, I often provide education around the purpose of emotional responses. Although I would like to be positive and happy most of the time, no one can be happy all the time. Anxiety, depression, anger, and other emotions provide information and need to be appreciated, not suppressed. It gives people information that can lead to wonderful things and changes that could improve your family and life.
When I talk with patients about pain, the first thing we talk about is that pain is your body letting you know that something isn’t right and you need to think about it and react appropriately. If you have a pain in your chest, you need to get to a doctor. If you have pain in your legs, who might also need to get to a doctor, or if you think about it, you may need to stretch to lengthen the muscles so they don’t hurt during exercise. It makes me think of the quote “ doctor it hurts when I do this” and the doctor says “well don’t do that”. Your body sends you messages all the time. Pay attention!
When I talk with people about anxiety, I generally talk about the healthy purpose of anxiety. Anxiety brings up a higher level of awareness, that can help better define a response to the problem. If you have anxiety about performing, or speaking, in front of an audience, anxiety can help you prepare to the best of your ability (as long as it doesn’t overwhelm you). If you have anxiety around taking tests, it can help you get assistance to learn test taking skills to better manage the issue and improve your grades. If you have anxiety around other things like spiders, being in the dark, or any other fear, there are people that can help you. Having anxiety is not a bad thing. If it becomes overwhelming get help from a therapist to talk about how to manage it more effectively.
Related to depression, sadness and depression also serve a purpose, especially when we go through a hard time. The emotion should trigger a higher awareness and more thought about what might be causing it, and what needs to be different and to manage it. I have gone through difficult times in my life, and I have provided support to others going through hard times as well. When people are struggling, I think that it’s a cue that they need to reach out to others, whether it’s family, friends, or community support services. Don’t suffer alone, that can create other problems. Be aware of your sadness and depression and reach out to get help if you need it.
Emotions serve a purpose, and are key in teaching us how to manage our lives. The information above is simple. but I’m hoping it will help start a conversation. I think many people stopped paying attention to emotions, and just feel like they need to be happy all the time. That would be nice, and I’m hoping to be as happy as I can be, but I can’t erase sadness and depression and all the other emotions out of my life. I have to embrace them, learn from them, and use them as tools to help guide me. I think that’s the only way to be happy, for life.