I have mentioned the common tendencies to avoid and change our own emotional experiences. How does this work in our relationships with other people? We have to also recognize our tendencies to change the emotional experience of other people. Our own intolerance of negative emotions such as sadness, anger, fear causes us to also try and prevent those close to us to not experience those emotions either. An easy example of this is with children. Imagine a child crying. A common reaction to this would be to try and get the child to stop crying, either by saying stop crying, fixing the problem, or trying to reason with the child that they shouldn’t be upset because the situation isn’t really that bad. The problem with these responses is that we are teaching our children to avoid their negative experience instead of seeing the experiencing of negative emotions as a normal and natural part of the human condition. The helpful thing to do would be to validate the child’s emotion by saying, “you are feeling sad”, and letting them know that it is okay to be sad. By doing this, the child will benefit in two ways, by beginning to trust their own emotional experience and learn that there is nothing wrong with feeling negative emotions. The emotion will soon pass but avoiding it will only delay its experience and prolong suffering. By allowing others to feel their emotions instead of trying to change them we are also extending that benefit to adults in our lives by validating their emotions and allowing them to experience the emotion in the moment.
Avoidance of emotion is a chronically conditioned part of most people’s lives. It prolongs suffering by perpetuating our avoidance reaction and activating similar states such as anxiety and fear. We feel as if we have something constantly hanging over our heads. Experiencing our emotions in the moment frees us from unnecessary anxiety and allows us to let go of the emotional burden we all carry.