Emotions and Recovery in Substance Abuse and Trauma

We all have our own way of dealing with our feelings. This week, I’ve been wondering about all the different ways people manage or deal with their feelings. What relationship do you have with your feelings? What do you tell yourself about feelings? Are you comfortable with emotions or uncomfortable? Are you fearful of experiencing them? My own personal style has been to deny them or avoid emotions by pushing them away or bottling them up for as long as possible. Sound familiar? Individuals struggling with substance abuse and/or trauma among other mental health concerns many times utilize maladaptive coping strategies to manage or numb difficult emotions, such as drinking, drug abuse, partying, staying over productive, and other activities or behaviors that keep you from confronting those emotions.

What makes letting negative or difficult emotions in so difficult? Much of the time, it’s what we tell ourselves will happen if we do or our beliefs about emotions. For example, emotions are dangerous. Negative emotions arise from painful experiences or events that occur in your life. Can we learn to welcome in the pain that we feel from emotions? Sounds strange I know. Working on accepting that pain will arrive at our doorstep from time to time, can help alleviate some of the anxiety and fear around difficult emotions. Maybe the resistance only makes these emotions more intense or heightened. We can learn to tell ourselves that we can survive the emotions that arise from certain events, because we have survived the event itself. This may assist us in approaching the work that is ahead with these feelings. We can either keep the door shut, which will have the emotions linger at your front door, or open that door and let the feelings in. Individual therapy can help you in developing a healthier relationship with your feelings and teach you how to approach your feelings so that you can begin to give up other unhealthy ways you have been managing.

Can we just allow ourselves to have self-compassion for knowing that the human existence can be difficult at times? That compassion entails allowing ourselves to feel the hurt in order to heal from the pain you have experienced within your life. Can we just learn to be kinder to ourselves for living in the human experience, which naturally includes pain as part of the process?

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