Most of us are familiar with the idea that emotions can range from good to bad. We often think of happy and positive emotions as being beneficial and good, while difficult or “dark” emotions are deemed negative and something to be avoided. But what if we were to embrace those difficult feelings? What if we understood that our emotions, even the ones we deem as “dark” like anger, fear and sadness– can serve a purpose in our lives?


Benefits of Embracing Difficult Emotions


Imagine this– our emotions are like notifications on our phones, informing us of something or some feeling that needs addressing. But just like the notifications on our phones sometimes we dismiss things we shouldn’t or get distracted while we were on another task. Knowing how to interpret our difficult emotions instead of numbing and suppressing them can help us in a few ways:


They can serve as signals: Anger, fear, sadness, etc., can alert us to situations that may be harmful or require our attention. For example, anger may be a sign that our boundaries have been crossed, sadness may indicate that we need to grieve a loss, and fear may signal a potential threat. When we go numb, ignore, and suppress our feelings we lose the ability to address the root cause of the pain. Those are temporary mechanisms that may get us through the moment but when employed for an extended time become detrimental to our process of growth. It’s important to take the time to identify and create awareness around the signals our feelings are providing us. 


They can motivate action: They can motivate us to take action to address the situation that is causing them. In the same way, touching a hot stove sends an electrical pulse to our brain to signal pain so we can move our hand away from the stove and avoid physical harm– our emotions act in the same way. When we’re angry, we have a lot of options on to rectify the situation. This is where it usually falls apart. We get lost in the action or should I say re-action to our boundaries being crossed and rather than addressing the boundary, we shift into being belligerent or passive-aggressive. The key here is taking time to pause and notice your plan of action so you can make better decisions, and stay focused on the primary issue of setting healthy boundaries.


They can provide important information: Our emotions are rich with details and can provide us with important information about ourselves, our values, and our needs. During the pandemic, I saw a few of my extrovert friends struggle with feelings of loneliness and isolation. At first, one friend confided, that it was due to the lack of being around friends and family that hurt the most but over time that friend admitted they used their “extrovertness” to run from dealing with deeper feelings that were overdue in being addressed. The pandemic revealed the shallowness in their current relationships and allowed them to really see what they created over the years. In the end, my friend was able to process the feelings of loneliness and isolation with a therapist and set the groundwork for creating foundational relationships that would nourish and fulfill them.


When we embrace our difficult emotions there’s a newfound emotional freedom waiting for us on the other side. By allowing yourself the space to feel these emotions, you can make more thoughtful decisions and develop greater empathy for yourself and others. It may take time to learn how to embrace your difficult emotions while avoiding feeling overwhelmed by them, but it is possible with practice.