Constructive Wallowing

How to beat bad feelings by letting yourself have them

Upset About Something? Here's What to Do

How and why to go ahead and wallow in whatever's bugging you

Once we have shelter, safety and enough to eat, the problems of life are all emotional.

For example…

  • We don't get a raise or a promotion
  • We're not doing meaningful work
  • We feel unloved
  • We give more than our share
  • We get less than our share
  • We can never go home again

Resentment, longing, emptiness despair, grief, loss—these are all emotional experiences that turn the above scenarios into problems. Problems for humans, that is.

If we were robots, none of the above would bother us. But for us humans, we suffer because we  have the emotional capacity to do so.

When we’re suffering about something and we don’t know how to change it, we might turn away from our own emotions.

We try to convince ourselves to feel good by saying things like, “I’m lucky to have a job (or a relationship) at all.”

We suppress thoughts of anger.

We distract ourselves from resentment.

We ignore grief, tamp down jealousy, deny insecurity.

We whistle past our “negative” feelings and wonder why they keep us up at night.

We may take drugs, or take up a hobby, to quiet our feelings. It might even seem to work for a while.

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But there’s a catch.

Everything we want in life—everything good—is also an emotional experience…

  • Comfort in our skin
  • Confidence in our skills, knowledge, contributions or basic worth
  • Career fulfilment
  • Pride in our achievements
  • Connection with others
  • A sense of belonging
  • A feeling that our lives are worth living

We want to feel our emotions when they’re positive. Good-feeling emotions are what make life worthwhile.

But we can’t have delight without its opposite.

Feelings all “live” in the same “place,” so we must choose to feel either everything or nothing.

To suppress despair is to suppress joy, and to invite excitement is to invite anguish.

Emotions come as a package. They’re an all-or-nothing affair.

That’s why it’s so common for people who’ve been hurt to feel “blah.”

They’ve managed to throw a psychic blanket over their anger or their sadness, but interest and motivation wind up under there, too.

So these “blah”-feeling people exist in a world of gray, with no emotional highs or lows, wondering about the meaning of their lives and why they don’t feel connected to others.

Constructive wallowing is about embracing all emotions with compassionate acceptance in order to live the fullest, most wonderful life.

This means being upset when you’re upset.

Not fighting it. Not looking for the silver lining. Not whipping out your gratitude journal.

Just wallowing.

No one needs to know what you’re doing. Wallowing doesn’t mean acting out. It’s invisible, like longing for a better life.

Try just feeling what you’re feeling. Name the emotion if you can. For example: 

  • Angry
  • Sad
  • Insecure
  • Resentful

For a little help, check out this list of words for emotions.

If you can’t think of a word for how you’re feeling, just tell yourself, “I feel bad right now.”

Have faith: Once bad feelings have had their way with you, feeling better is not far behind.

Don’t worry that painful emotions might hang around forever. They won’t.

The only pain that can potentially last forever is the painful struggle not to feel your real emotions.

That, you could do for the rest of your life. But who wants to?

 

Counselor and workshop leader Tina Gilbertson, LPC is the author of Constructive Wallowing: How to Beat Bad Feelings By Letting Yourself Have Them.

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