The British are known for having a stiff upper lip. We tell our children not to cry when they are upset. Men are often raised to believe it’s weak to show emotion (outside of anger) or to be vulnerable. The problem is that when we stifle our emotions, they don’t go away. They might allow themselves to be buried for a minute, but they will surface again some other way. Alcoholism, drug abuse, food and shopping addictions, explosive and unexpected outbursts are just some of the ways buried emotions find their way to the surface.
Instead of burying them, we need to accept them and embrace them. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to be frustrated. It’s okay to be angry. Whatever you are feeling is okay. All feelings are valid. It’s okay to express them; in fact, it’s the healthy and the strong thing to do. What isn’t okay is taking those feelings out on others. However, a healthy display of emotions, especially negative emotions, is a positive thing to do.
When you have those feelings, let them out. Seek out those who will support you in feeling your feelings. There is no faster way to make yourself feel worse than to be around people who don’t understand you or belittle your display of emotions. Go off by yourself if need be. Find a friend who will just listen. Stay away from those who will tell you that they told you so or mock your feelings. Even stay away from those, at least temporarily, that want to advise you or tell you what to do.
On the other side, when those closest to you need you, be there for them. Allow them to feel their feelings. Be the shoulder they need to lean or cry on. Be the sounding board as they work through their feelings. Model the type of behavior you would like them to show you.
You don’t want to wallow in the negative but if you do need to wallow in the way that you are experiencing. As a coach friend of mine likes to say, “The only way to get through it is to go through it.”