Emotional Growth

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I often hear in the recovery community that some emotions are bad while others are good. I understand that point of view but I believe it is incorrect. It may not seem like a problem, but I think it is very important to be precise when talking about this topic so that we are not led astray. Emotions can be extremely powerful and if we perceive them incorrectly for a long period of time, it can be catastrophic for our recovery. It has always been an emotion that I acted on that caused a relapse.

Some people believe anger is an emotion that should be suppressed, ignored or outright avoided at all costs. Anger is healthy. Anger is the opposite of depression and is a valuable emotion that we should speak to, and evaluate in much more depth. If you begin to feel anger, that emotion is there for a very good reason. Suppressing it or ignoring it is only erasing your true self. Of course, it is possible to allow anger to get out of control. That means you are not listening to what it is saying to you. You are simply allowing it to operate you like a giant meat puppet. Figure out what it is telling you. Don’t confuse anger with rage. Rage can be destructive. If you are swinging a baseball bat through the flat-screen, it is safe to say that you are no longer angry. If you act as though your emotions are “against” you instead of there to help you, you are not going through optimal recovery and very little growth, if any, will occur. Your emotions are your friends. Your emotions are your true self. Don’t treat them with contempt or hatred. Each one of your emotions is a part of your personality eco-system. They are your Board of Directors. They are your Congress (a Congress that actually does something useful.)

When I was in early sobriety, I remember how powerful and overwhelming my emotions were. So I understand the early random flooding bombardment of uncontrolled guilt-cry-happy-joyous-disgust fits that hit without warning. I also know that I made it through that time and I am still alive. Emotions always fade away. That is why it is so important to understand what they are trying to tell us and why.

Relapsing because of a non-harmful emotion seems kind of silly in hindsight. When my father passed away, I felt like my heart was ripped out of my chest. The pain felt so powerful, so intense. I knew the pain wasn’t going to kill me and even though it felt similar to physical pain, I knew it was just a deep sadness and grieving in knowing I could never see him again. I allowed myself to wail over his death. I remember sobbing loudly and uncontrollably on my mother’s couch with my wife at my side. Right in the middle of my emotional deluge, a thought popped into my head. I realized at that moment that my father’s death was not a good enough reason for me to relapse. I knew I would be okay.

For so much of my life, I have misunderstood my emotions. I have let my emotions overrun my life by my misguided reactions and irrationality. I’ve mainly focused on anger and sadness in this post but all of our emotions are legitimate mind/body awareness that tell us everything we need to know. The hard part is figuring out what they are trying to say. As long as we don’t push them away and suppress them as unnecessary glitches in the system, we can grow and learn everything we need to know about who we are. Just remember there is always a thought before an emotion. You have that “magic quarter of a second” to beat your emotion to the punch. But don’t punch your emotion, violence is bad.

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27 thoughts on “Emotional Growth

  1. I like it…I just wished I could learn something from this emotional blog. I too am still very angry that my husband was ripped from my life, and I am still having trouble with going back and forth between all of the emotions of the grieving process. I really hope that this roulette wheel of spinning emotions will stop on happy, or acceptance, or I’m gonna be ok, and soon?
    Love, Mom

    Liked by 1 person

    • They did a study about relationships. I’m sure it’s not exact or particular to you but it found that to be over another person it takes half the time of the relationship. That’s for separation and breakups. I can imagine a death can take many years mom. You talk about your emotions like they are complete deterministic. You have a say in where the roulette wheel stops you know.

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      • I keep trying to stop on 23 Black…but it clicks back to angry red! Yesterday was a particularly bad, sad, tearful day and I just couldn’t stop. Life’s a B*tch and then your spouse dies!
        Love (angry) Mom

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  2. This is a great post man… I have a tough time with anger though. I can play with that one under most circumstances but I have to be very careful I don’t get too angry. I don’t do well, rationally speaking, so I can take it up to a point before I do suppress it. I walk away, call my sponsor, and talk myself back from the edge. So while I get your point and agree with it, there are also times when “suppression” makes sense too. Of course, you could also call that “control” just as easy – but that’s a whole new can of worms.

    Way to get me to think a little bit.

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  3. I like this, because I understand what you mean. As a former addict, I have to be self-aware, more than other people. For me, each drink at a bar represents a potential threat to my stability. I often try to remember that character from Cocaine, and how he tried to slip through every situation without even considering its impacts on him and his family. I’m happy that I’m still resisting any urges to let my emotions take control over my body and soul.

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    • Thanks Johnberk, is Cocaine a movie? If so, I haven’t seen it. I have done the drug and just reading the word makes my stomach ache. Self awareness has been very helpful even though it took me years to understand myself. Thanks for your comment.

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  4. Excellent post. I totally agree. When we’re sober we no longer have that perceived escape that our addiction provided, so we are forced to deal with our emotions, the pleasurable and the difficult ones. How we allow them to be felt, acknowledged and understood determines how quickly we heal. And you are right, when we allow ourselves to be open to feeling, (instead of numbing), the intensity of our emotions lessen in time.
    https://shadowashspiritflame.wordpress.com/2014/05/01/the-moon-stays-bright-when-it-doesnt-avoid-the-night/

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    • Thanks for your comment and I apologize for the extremely slow response. I have more control of my responses to emotions since I have understood that they are there to guide my decisions rather than destroying my mood. I appreciate others thoughts on emotions. The more we can understand them, the better.

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  5. While I don’t think the opposite of depression is anger, I agree that emotions don’t need to be labeled good or bad. They just are. There to be experience and released.

    Pema Chodron has a good book called the Places that scare you. It is good for dealing with change and grief. You might find it helpful. She is a wise woman.

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    • Thanks for the book idea. I am always up for reading new ideas. I will check that out. What are your thoughts on anger and depression? What do you believe are their opposites? I’ve tried to think about it for a while and can’t seem to come up with anything. Thanks for your comment and for reading my post! πŸ™‚

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      • I think the opposite of anger is calm. Reacting vs listening. When I am in a good place I rarely get angry. I either recognize whatever is triggering the anger is really aggressiveness (ie in traffic) and unhelpful or I don’t take things personally. Obviously I can’t do this all the time! But it improving!

        Depression, for me, was so devoid of energy that I had no anger. I only had heaviness and despair. Logical thinking was possible, but I just could not believe that things were ever going to change. I can honestly say, one day I woke up and it was like the black clouds parted just a crack and I saw light shine through. And that was enough hope, or perhaps faith that things would change, that I suddenly knew things WOULD get better.
        It was that clear and real.

        Anne

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  6. Hi Dustin,

    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, about anger especially. I’ve been meditating on “listening to what my anger is trying to tell me” all weekend, and some of the things that came up for me not only helped me, but also a good friend in need.

    Have a great day,
    Dinah

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re welcome. That’s great to hear! It’s not always an easy emotion to follow to its core purpose. I’m glad you were able to come to a positive conclusion. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi Dustin,

    This is a really great post. You are so right. I know now that I was afraid to express any negative emotions. I was afraid of what would happen. Would people be mad at me? Not like me? Maybe leave me? It seemed safer to just numb any negative emotions with alcohol. But if “anger is the opposite of depression”, then anger not felt and understood just gets turned inward and becomes depression. That makes so much sense. I am going to really pay attention to my emotions and try to understand what they are telling me. Thank you for that insight!

    Kim

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Kim, thank you for your comment. It is typical for us to not express our true emotions especially when we are around others. Appeasing others was constant for me. I was always worried that my needs were too inconvenient to my loved ones so I would either manipulate or suppress what I was truly feeling. If I can’t be honest and open with the people around me there is something much larger than my emotions that needs addressed. I believe depression can only happen when a person has given up on the core problem. With depression, anger has to be absent. Many people point anger in the wrong direction. Instead of being angry at the right person or issue, we get angry at ourselves or pretend we are not angry at all. I hope things are going better for you lately. I know you were having a tough time a couple weeks ago. I sensed anger then, so that is good. Lol have a great week.

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  8. Dustin you really hit the mark with your thoughts on the importance of accepting ALL your emotions. It doesn’t mean we have to act all crazy about them but just process them for what they are much like you did after your dad’s death. It took me years to learn this and I still struggle with it. Thanks for sharing this personal story.

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  9. I agree. An emotion is a “thought plus a judgement” that has been so fully integrated into our subconscious that we don’t have much control over when and how it pops up. But for an emotion to be “true,” the thought and judgement that preceded it must also be true. So if nothing else, that underscores the importance of making reality-based thoughts and judgements our default setting as much as possible. Also important is not being afraid to ask ourselves, “Is this true?” when we’re experiencing a certain feeling.

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    • That’s a great point. I will try that. Asking myself if my impulse/emotion/thought are true. That would be the most logical place to start and it could possibly stop an ever increasing problem from growing. Thanks for your thoughts on this SC. Sorry for the slow response. I’ve been on spring vacation. Have a good one!

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  10. Pingback: Emotional Growth | AFTER THE POP !

    • Thanks Chelsie! Long time no hear? Hope everything is okay. I agree with you on the importance of anger. A lot of suedo-philosophies believe that having anger can only cause resentment and bitterness and so on but the best way for evil to prevail is for good people to do nothing. Anger can turn into harmful aggression but to deny it a healthy outlet is dangerous and allows immoral people to continue to abuse and exploit. Thanks for stopping by.

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