For people who feel keenly (is that all of us, or only some of us, I’m never sure!) emotions take a lot of energy. I assume this works as a spectrum and that the more intensely you feel things, the more those emotions take up energy. I also find that the more powerful the emotion, the more time I need to digest it, process it, and accommodate it. This is also true for me in dealing with potent positive experiences.
The incredible high of something going amazingly well and being rich with excellent feedback, brilliant outcomes and wholehearted emotional engagement from other people can, if I’m not careful, lead to desperate plummets. Coming down off a high like that can be nothing short of a crash. However, I’ve found in recent years that if I give myself processing time in the aftermath, I cope a lot better. Walking home talking over whatever happened, writing about it, eating toast, drinking tea, bringing my body down gently.
I find anger takes a terrible toll on me. It’s not an emotion I’m prone to and I can only sustain it in very short bursts, and it leaves me wiped out. The aftermath of anger tends to bring massive anxiety and no confidence. I second guess myself, mistrust my first impulse, and can easily fall into depression. Historically, anger has not been a safe emotion for me to express in any way and I’m still learning how to make room for it without harming myself. No doubt this is part of why it leaves me exhausted. For other people, anger can be a source of energy and fuels feelings if self righteousness and power. We’re all different.
Squashing down sad feelings can seem like a way of avoiding negativity and staving off depression. My experience is that in the longer term, it has the exact opposite impact. Pains and griefs that are dealt with at the time can be let go of. Anything we repress or deny festers inside us, often to return with greater force at a later date. Unprocessed grief can become a very heavy thing to carry, and it can crush you.
It takes a surprising amount of energy to not deal with powerful feelings. Pretending that everything is fine is one of the most expensive emotional activities that I’ve ever encountered. Over time, it is exhausting, leaving me not only feeling threadbare and depressed, but also inauthentic and hollow. Having space for your own feelings is a key part of getting to feel like a real person, not some kind of robot. Feeling obliged to hide how you feel to appease others eats away at self esteem, identity and confidence. People who do not have room for your real responses are not good people to spend time with. If you can’t get out of that situation, making private, personal space for how you really feel is essential. A few minutes locked in a bathroom can be a sanity saver.
We associate being cool and in control with being mature and responsible. Our culture is suspicious of emotional outbursts and quick to label them as childish, irresponsible, or manipulative. You don’t get to be the kind of person who is always calmly in control by not feeling things. Not least because if you don’t let yourself feel, you never find out what you feel, and thus never really know who you are, and this is the egg from which future breakdowns in mental health will hatch.