One of the first obvious things to discuss around depression is unpleasant feelings. Difficult emotions. And if you look, it’s easy to find that we all operate from a box around our emotions. A very simple, obvious box.
What are some emotions you like having? The usual list is love, joy, happiness, excitement, contentment, inspiration, and enthusiasm.
These we call “good emotions.” We all like having them and want them as often as possible. What are some emotions we do not like and do not want to have? See if most of these fit for you: sadness, anger, fear, loneliness, hate, anxiety, shame, meaninglessness.
These are what we call “bad emotions” and we try to avoid them as much as possible. If we can not avoid them, and can not help but feel them, we try to get rid of them as quickly as we can.
So what is this simple box we operate from around emotions? The box is that there are “good” emotions and “bad” emotions. Pretty obvious, right? We all seem to just “know” that when it comes to emotions there are good ones and bad ones, and the game in life is to feel good and not feel bad. This is so obvious that it goes unexamined. Of course this is the way you deal with emotions!
And, of course, all the feelings that go with depression we classify as bad emotions, to be avoided or gotten rid of as quickly as possible and at all costs. The box we’re stuck in about depression is that it is bad. And we definitely want to get away from having all of the kinds of feelings that go with it.
But there is a big problem to this approach of trying to get rid of all the feelings associated with depression, and it begins with a common emotional mistake we make all of the time. This emotional mistake has to do with trying not to feel bad feelings.
Try on the idea that you have an emotional body, and that your emotional body has a job to do, which is to feel feelings. Good ones, like joy and peace, and “bad” ones, like sadness or shame. It will feel all feelings. You can not actually keep it from feeling feelings.
You can not keep your skin from feeling hot or cold, soft or hard. Your skin will feel whatever surrounds it. Just so, your emotional body will feel all of your emotions. You can not just feel good feelings. When you try to suppress bad feelings, you only cause them to get stuck. They then tend to stick around much longer. Trying not to feel the difficult emotions that go with depression can be a way to keep depression around!
So to get out of the box of depression, one method is to learn emotional intelligence so that you can move difficult emotions through your emotional body more quickly. There is no room in this article to get into the details, but often just 5 minutes a day of exploring negative emotions rather than resisting them can begin to make a big difference!