Lately I’ve been struggling with other peoples’ emotions. I burst into tears in group therapy a couple of weeks ago because I felt so highly anxious about the emotions on display. I wanted to run away and felt trapped and afraid so cried.
I’ve also often been confused by my own emotions. If ever I feel anything very strongly, I tend to be afraid and try to divert it. Anger in particular. Guilt drives me to being self-destructive, happiness to guilt, sadness to…guilt. And I constantly worry that I’ve upset people and I become anxious about how they are going to react to me.
But my one-to-one therapist has told me that there’s nothing to be afraid of – emotions themselves can’t hurt you. OK, prolonged periods of stress can have an adverse effect on physical health, but strong emotions, in the moment, are nothing to be afraid of. I’m finding this quite hard to come to terms with. They feel so overwhelming, so forceful, and sometimes, so destructive, that how can they not hurt you? But then I suppose guilt itself never injured anyone. No one died from sadness. It’s how you choose to react to them that can cause problems. But If you say to yourself: “This too shall pass” then maybe you can come to terms with the fact that emotions can just be everyday, natural occurrences that don’t need to be scary or overwhelming.
And the same goes for others. You can hurt other people, and indeed, everyone will do at some point, but you can’t control the reactions of others, you can’t always be responsible. I someone is angry at you, they need to tell you in a healthy way and it’s OK – it’s not the end of the world. They just need to let you know their boundaries. You can’t live in fear of that.
And if other people are sad, you can’t single-handedly make them happy again. It has to come from them. You can reach out to people, it’s up to them if they accept the offer. And their tears are nothing to be afraid of…right…