Permitting Ugly Feelings
Updated: Apr 12, 2018
Something I've seen often with my clients is an avoidance of admitting to or talking about the negative or 'ugly' feelings they have associated with the people they love. For many, there is a fear of what it might mean if they did address these feelings.
"If I talk badly about my deceased father does that make me a bad person?"..."If I confront the anger I have toward my partner will that lead to us breaking up?"... "If I feel angry at my mom after all she's done for me does that make me ungrateful?" These aren't necessarily questions that clients would ask out loud, but things which I often imagine they are thinking on a semi-conscious or subconscious level, especially when they stop themselves mid-sentence, appear filled with guilt, or suddenly change the subject.
It seems there is this underlying belief for many of us that any anger, resentment, disgust, or other negative feelings we have toward someone we love negates or cancels out the love, gratitude, compassion, and other positive feelings we have toward them. Not the case! We are ever-evolving, multi-layered, complex beings capable of holding many contradicting truths, each being wildly real and valid- yes, all at once.
The ironic thing is that actually addressing the full range of feelings we may have toward someone else, including the negative, is a very loving thing to do. Why? Because unaddressed feelings build walls between people. It can happen insidiously. Which is why it's so important to check in with ourselves and to be honest with ourselves when something feels 'off' within a relationship with someone we care about.
And by the way, addressing negative feelings that we have toward others doesn't always have to involve directly expressing these feelings to that person (which is not always possible anyway). Something special about therapy is that it's a space where you can let out your whole truth, in all of it's intricacies and glory. And you can have that truth heard, accepted, and validated. Sometimes that's enough to start to let go of that anger and resentment on your own.
To deny ourselves of our complexity is to deny ourselves of our humanity. You are here, so you might as well give yourself permission to exist.