7 “Negative” Caregiver Emotions You Want to EmbraceApr 27, 2021
Feelings Won’t Hurt You
As a beautiful human being, complete with annoying flaws and remarkable talents, you are supposed to experience uncomfortable emotions.
Do you believe that?
Do you know that emotional health isn’t about being positive all the time?
To be whole, you need “negative” feelings. They help you push your proverbial ball forward.
If our boys hadn’t had heard my husband and me fight the entire time they were growing up, they might never have left the comfort of home. Their frustration spurred them to more incredible things than X-Box and Blender.
You create problems for yourself when you think distressing emotions are a bad thing. But resisting your feelings is like trying to stop the wind.
A stiff breeze can be annoying. It might mess up your hair and clothing, freeze you to the bone, or blow your picnic all over the park.
But most of the time, it won’t actually hurt you.
And the wind does lovely things like spread pollen, scoot clouds along in the sky, bring moisture from bodies of water to thirsty crops, and powder up stunning ski slopes.
It’s the same with unpleasant feelings.
Of course, they’re uncomfortable. It’s more fun to be happy, excited, and confident. Nobody wants their picnic ruined.
But unwanted emotions only become a problem when you try to resist them.
Ignoring, denying, or burying your disagreeable feelings under a mound of endless affirmations, bright smiles, and gratitude journaling may seem like a noble thing to do.
It certainly is if you don’t know better.
But the truth is that resisting emotion is like a plane hurtling down a runway, receiving lift-off from the strength of the air currents traveling over the wing’s shape.
Unpleasant feelings heighten intensely when you push against them. They become more uncomfortable than they were initially, flying out of control into more intense emotions.
Have you experienced challenging emotions following things like trauma, death, or illness? How did you feel? Did you want to feel happy? Would it have been appropriate for you or others to try talking you out of your grief?
Of course not. When you’re going through something difficult, you want to be miserable. Yes, it feels rotten, but it’s natural.
Feeling sad when someone you love passes away is cleansing. The worse you feel, the more intensely you’re honoring your relationship with that individual and acknowledging the emptiness of life without them close.
If you don’t allow yourself to cry, talk, sleep, and do all the things you want to do to process clean pain, you may begin to sense the deep trauma of dirty pain creeping into your body.
And that can be destructive.
When you push away discomfort, it only becomes stronger and might escalate to powerful physiological sensations and effects that can harm you.
A stiff breeze, given the right amount of atmospheric resistance and heat, will create a tornado as the opposite conditions of warm, dry air and cold, moist air form a thunderstorm.
The rising warm air is pushed to the side and jostled by the wind moving in another direction.
Don’t push your feelings aside. They might create a nasty storm.
Allow your feelings to be with you, welcome to hang out, and acknowledged for what they are—the results of your thoughts.
So, what are seven “negative” caregiver emotions you want to embrace?
These are clean emotions because they are typical responses to your thoughts about your life. If you embrace them instead of resisting them, you will become resilient, comfortable with discomfort.
Tolerance to dis-ease will prevent your body’s breakdown into physical and mental disease as life’s trials come at you.
The Cost of Resistance
What’s the difference between clean pain and dirty pain?
Clean pain is necessary and appropriate. When my husband is so delusional that he can’t enjoy a visit from our grown boys, I feel sad. I might cry when they leave, not only because I’ll miss them but also because they didn’t get a hug from Dad.
What if I choose to ignore the feelings and hold back my tears, maybe tell myself that it’s better if my husband stays in his room so we don’t have to deal with the drama of his stories of imminent doom, conspiracies, and aliens monitoring Earth.
In a heartbeat, my sadness becomes despair, and I go to thoughts like, “Joe will never see his kids and grandkids again.”
Clean sadness became dirty despair.
It’s dirty because it’s more intense, prolonged, and destructive, just like a tornado.
Let’s look at our list and the problems we make when we resist negative emotions. What happens to our natural, clean pain?
- Sadness becomes despair.
- Loss becomes emptiness.
- Grief becomes anguish.
- Loneliness becomes isolation.
- Frustration becomes anger.
- Worry becomes anxiety.
- Fear becomes panic.
Caregivers encounter many more clean emotions as our lives go in different directions than we’d planned.
The most important self-care is to allow the feelings that arise when our thoughts turn to our loved ones, what has been, what is now, and what may change.
There aren’t any rules about what we should and shouldn’t feel.
If you want to be angry and you don’t want anyone telling you to “cheer up” or “don’t let it ruin your day” or “look on the bright side,” then be miffed and pissed off and grumpy all you can be.
If you allow it without judgment or criticism and don’t pressure yourself to get over it, the emotion will wash over you and harmlessly slink away at some point.
It’s okay if it stays close by and visits you often.
I get uncomfortable every time my husband walks into the room. I love him, and we have good times, but my lower brain wants to warn me of danger.
So I snuggle up to a bit of worry. I say, “Hi, Worry. I know you. I’m okay if you want to sit here with me for a bit.”
When I didn’t understand how to process emotion, I used to reject worry. I smiled at Joe and traded it in for a little secondary PTSD and some shared schizophrenia.
I over-reacted to everything Joe said, suspecting he didn’t love me.
If he did, he’d trust me and stop asking me stupid questions about where I was and who I was with and how much did I spend, and what I was thinking.
Allowing the discomfort of the moment helps release it afterward. It gives us the power to progress forward, no matter what the event or trigger.
Be compassionate with yourself and be sad for as long as you need.
Embrace your clean pain and sketchy emotions. It’s what humans get to do.
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