“Suck it up,” “this isn’t that bad,” “why are you so weak,” “don’t be pathetic”…ect. All things we tell ourselves in moments of pain and discomfort. If they worked I would say use them, but they don’t, at least not in the long run. All of this “tough talk” simply delays our ability to psychologically process what we are feeling, and in turn, move forward from it. The “suck it up” mentality comes from our weakest selves. While it may temper our feelings in the moment, if denied acknowledgment, these feelings are sure to pop up at a later, possibly less convenient time.
Why do children ask for kisses on their “boo boos” ? They are not under the illusion that a kiss will remove the scrape or make blood disappear. If they believed this they would stop asking after a few bumps and scrapes. We know why they ask. They are seeking one thing; acknowledgment of their pain. Children are amazing at seeking immediate gratification and while sometimes this can be a challenge (getting to a restroom, finding a snack, ect…), they often can emotionally move forward from things much fast than adults. As children grow up, they learn to care for themselves, feed themselves, take themselves to the restroom, put themselves to bed, and so on. As they develop into psychologically healthy adults, they also learn how to acknowledge their own pain, and in turn move forward from it.
Depending on how we were raised, acknowledging emotional pain and discomfort is easier for some of us then others. For some, it comes naturally, like a reflex. If you were raised in an environment where the adults in your life were unable to help you acknowledge your pain, you might not have had the opportunity to develop this reflex. As a survival tool you may have needed to develop the “suck it up/tough guy” reflex since acknowledging emotions wasn’t something that happened regularly in your home. This environment can often cultivate emotional immaturity, unforgiving and rigid tendencies, and a sense of stubbornness. (I myself can relate). While we sometimes feel like we are “staying strong,” often we are simply refusing to acknowledge our pain, and thus choosing to stay stuck. Of course, the person we hurt the most is our self.
This “tough guy” mentality leaves us feeling weak and depleted. It also blocks us from being our best selves since it was learned from a very narcissistic environment. Usually this “tough guy” mentality keeps us focused on ourselves since most of our energy is going to what we think is “staying strong.” In reality the energy is going to hiding a decent amount of pain. The good news is, you can choose to acknowledge your emotions whenever you like…it simply takes practice.
Signs we are denying our emotions:
Denying our emotions actually has a physical affect on our body. While it can manifest differently in individuals, I find that it often causes chest tightening, stomach pain, headaches, digestive issues, increased heart rate, and sleep disturbance. All of these signs could be indicators of denied acknowledgment of emotions.
Why we deny our emotions:
We are out of practice. While some of us might have never had the opportunity to learn emotional acknowledgment as children, society also teaches us to disassociate from our feelings, to assume that if we feel wronged it is childish and petty to say something. Perhaps being childish sometimes is more productive. We often go to great lengths to appear to be “low maintenance,” “not overly sensitive,” and “carefree”.
How does acknowledging our emotions help us?
How many times have you left an interaction with a friend, colleague, or relative and ruminated about it, wishing you had said something in the moment, and now it feels too late. Feel something: say something. It’s not easy, however you may gain hours of your life back as you wont go home and spend hours thinking about what you could have said. Still ruminating about a past incident? That’s ok. Ask whomever it was if they would be kind enough to hear you out. Allow them their own reaction, accept their reaction, and move forward. The simple reason to acknowledge your emotions is emotional freedom.
We are only as free as our minds allow us to be and acknowledging our emotions allows us to take control of our thoughts. Only then are we able to decide how to live our lives on purpose. Only then are we able to live with inspiration and purpose.
Cheers to you and ALL of your emotions.