By Lauren Pescatore, Family First Therapist

Feelings and emotions are such a complicated concept. We grow up believing that some feelings are “good” and others are “bad.” We are told to embrace the “good” and suppress the “bad.”

When we are sad, we are told to get happy. When we are scared, we are told to toughen up and become brave. When we are worried, we are told everything will be alright. When we are angry, we are told to calm down.

Why? Why can’t we be sad, scared, worried, or angry? Why are these feelings so “bad?” I’m not here to answer that question, because I don’t believe they are bad. As humans, we are born with a range of emotions – and they’re all important. These emotions help guide us through life. They keep us safe and protect us from potential harm. They tell our bodies when we need to take a step back, reflect, and even heal. We can’t experience the good without the harder feelings and moments. While some emotions are less comfortable, they are all valid and come to us with reason. Our work is not to ignore our tough feelings and turn that frown upside down before we’re ready. Our work is to feel, understand, and healthily process and express every emotion we are gifted with.

This year has been a difficult one for many, if not all, of us. We may find ourselves filled with these negative emotions at times and that’s ok. You are allowed to be mad. You are allowed to be sad. You are allowed to be scared, nervous, and/or worried. You are allowed to feel. Sometimes, we may find ourselves looking at those around us to determine how we should feel. Emotions, especially pain, is personal and cannot be compared to others. It doesn’t matter if someone has it “harder” or you don’t feel like you “should” feel down. You are entitled to every and any emotional experience you’re having – and pushing them away only makes them stay longer! Remember: you don’t need permission for your emotions. When I find myself doing this, I stop and say, “I have permission to feel and I don’t need anyone’s approval.” Emotions are our own unique internal language. It’s powerful when we listen to them!

It may feel uncomfortable to sit with negative emotions. As a society, we have developed a lot of techniques for disconnecting and numbing out from hard feelings. It’s okay, even normal, if it feels unnatural, initially but it’s the most natural thing we can do. Next time you feel a negative emotion, don’t rush to get rid of it. Sit there, close your eyes, and embrace it. Listen to your heart and body. Listen to what it is telling you. Emotions are like passing ships or waves you ride. No emotion will last forever! Ride the wave and know that even though it doesn’t feel like it, this will pass. It’s ok to sit in the sadness, fear, worry, and even pain, but we must not stay there forever. Embrace them, learn from them, and then work to grow from them. They’re some of our best teachers and part of our work is to listen to the lessons and do the work to grow and move forward in positive directions. For now, know you’re not alone if you’re feeling a little down or anxious or antsy. Give yourself the permission to feel and get curious about it. From a therapist to you, I promise it’s okay and I promise it will help. And as always, if you’re feeling overwhelmed by everything happening or the feelings feel like they may drown you, reach out. We’re here. It can get better.

About the author: Lauren Pescatore is a family, child, and adolescent therapist who has been with Child Guidance for seven years. During that time, she has worked in several departments expanding her experience and treatment knowledge. She is currently a Family First clinician. Lauren is a proud graduate of Chestnut Hill College  and Widener University. She is a Licensed Social Worker (LSW) and preparing to obtain her clinical license (LSCW) later this year.