A Single Truth About Emotions That May Change Your Life (504 words)

tap(I am offering an observation based on my reading and my life. This blog post is not a substitute for therapy or medical treatment from licensed practitioners. This post is for information and reflection purposes only. I offer it because it has been helpful to me.)

“You only have one emotional spigot.”

That’s it. You cannot selectively turn some emotions off while being free to feel others. You can, to a certain extent, choose how much to feel. You cannot select which feelings to feel and which not to. If you choose to hide, run from, or otherwise turn off painful emotions, you will be turning off your ability to feel positive emotions as well. You cannot, for instance, refuse to feel your grief without diminishing your ability to experience joy.

Freud suggested that depression might be anger turned inward. By refusing to acknowledge their anger, a person may unwittingly disable their ability to feel joy as well.

Here is your $10 word for the day: Anhedonia. (My spell checker thinks it is not a word, but it is.) Anhedonia is a symptom of Major Depressive Disorder. It is the loss of interest in activities that one previously found enjoyable or rewarding. You only have one emotional spigot. Click To Tweet

I read a blog recently about a woman who described herself as “emotionally flat-lined.” Her treatment team told her that depression was anger turned inward and she would not get better if she didn’t get rid of her anger. She didn’t believe them because she wasn’t caring about anything at that point. But because she trusted them she took their advice. Her solution put on steel-toed boots, grab a metal baseball bat, and go to a nearby junkyard. With permission, she beat the crud out of a pickup truck. She surprised herself with the amount of anger pent up insider. Upon hearing about her personal “therapy” session, her treatment team suggested that such an approach carried with it emotional and physical dangers of its own. But she felt better. (CLICK HERE to read that post.)

I noticed myself tearing up as I read her blog post and thought of her madly bashing the junked truck, giving full vent to her rage. I may have some anger-turned-inward that I need to let out. We have a punching bag in our garage that I used to spend some quality time with. I noticed that it felt really good. I might have to de-clutter my garage enough to get back to that bag for some pugelistic therapy.

If you’ve noticed that you haven’t been feeling joy that you used to feel, it is worth considering that you might have turned off the emotional spigot to keep from feeling some negative emotion. If that’s the case, the solution is to in some way open yourself up to your full emotional range. You will have to experience the painful emotions you have been running from. But the reward is joy… and it’s worth it.

Next post: How understanding that anger is a secondary emotion can free you from its shackles.