It truly takes tremendous courage to face our own painful feelings, rather than avoiding through numbing or escaping. Many us of choose to avoid painful emotions by ignoring, dismissing or escape them with a veil of “positivity.” Even more of us avoid painful feelings by numbing/escaping with drugs, alcohol, or self-harm. Whether it is a glass of wine or three, busyness, sleep or other forms of escapism it is easier to avoid our pain and not really sit with it than face it or deal with it. Celebrity Brad Pitt even admitted in interviews that he struggled with escapism by turning to alcohol and Netflix to numb the pain after his split with Angelina Jolie. The star explained he was “running” from himself when he explained, “What I realized is that I was running to avoid tough feelings, painful feelings,” he said on their relationship ending. “I just didn’t know how to deal with them.”
Unfortunately, when individuals refuse to face painful emotions, they always find a way out. Painful emotions and feelings manifest themselves in one way or another – through anxiety, stress, physical or emotional tension, depression, mood swings, guilt, shame, and self-harm. When we fight pain, push it away, avoid it, ignore it, we never learn healthy ways to cope. I encourage my clients to begin the practice of recognizing and becoming aware of feelings and emotions, getting comfortable with sitting with uncomfortable emotions, resisting the urge to escape pain, and looking for ways through painful feelings instead of looking for ways out of painful feelings. It is amazing the lessons our feelings can teach us about ourselves, our interior world, and what we are capable of if we are willing to pause and listen.