Good mental health is not about always being happy
Good mental health is not about always being happy or never struggling. You have a full range of emotions, from happiness to sadness, anger, anxiety and excitement, and it’s healthy to feel all of them at some point. A full life contains situations that provoke all of these emotions.
All of our emotions have a purpose. To name but a few reasons, fear prevents us from doing things that would endanger our lives, happiness encourages us to repeat a good situation, and anger can give us the energy to stand up for and defend ourselves.
Difficulties occur when we struggle to accept the appropriate emotions for the situation, or when one or two take over at the expense of the others. Often we take in messages from family members or wider society that it’s not OK to show certain emotions. Some of the most common messages are about not crying and not getting angry.
If anger can never be expressed then this energy needs to go somewhere. All too often instead of being directed out at the person or thing that provoked it, the anger is swallowed down and turned inwards. It becomes OK to self-criticise, but not OK to criticise anyone else. This self-criticism can cause anxiety, depression and many other problems. It can be difficult to break out of this pattern. Accepting the message that being angry makes you a bad person means the anger is always held in to avoid feeling even worse by breaking the ‘rules’.
There is no such thing as a bad emotion – it’s simply an emotion, a response to an event. It becomes good or bad depending on the situation, how we use it and who we use it upon.
In reality, we all get sad and we all get angry, whether we show it or not. Accepting a realistic picture of all the emotions available to you will help you build healthy connections between yourself and other people. It may cause the end of unhealthy situations, but will strengthen healthy, supportive relationships.
Counselling can give you a safe space to explore the messages you have taken on board about your emotions, and those you may not allow yourself to feel. Building a trusting relationship with your counsellor will enable you to begin to look at the emotions you may not be expressing, and to feel and express them in the safety of the therapy room before perhaps building up the strength to try them in the world outside.
About the author
Chris Mounsher is a BACP registered humanistic counsellor working in private practice in Brighton. He offers both long term and short term counselling and has particular experience working with anxiety, addiction, depression, low self-esteem and relationship difficulties.
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