The four primary emotions we authentically feel are Anger, Fear, Joy and Sadness.

As we grow up we learn that some feelings serve us better than others, and this is unique to our family circumstance and culture.

Perhaps time was limited for our mother and it was only when we expressed loud rage that we got the attention we needed. Maybe a family member was suffering from a great sadness or depression and our joy was not encouraged in the house, in fact often we were told to take it outside if we laughed too loudly or had noisy fun.

Sometimes people describe how they ”Never get angry’ with pride or that they can’t remember the last time they cried.

Working out which feelings were given attention or concern to in your family and which were frowned upon or ignored can explain the patterns you have developed. Your go-to, default emotions and the ones you don’t feel comfortable identifying with.

Where the confusion lies

The problem is we’ve been given all four emotions for good reason. If you avoid a feeling how and where does that experience get processed?

One theory is that it comes out as another feeling that is more comfortable and accepted, for example little girls discouraged from getting angry may choose to cry and receive support from their mothers through showing sadness, continuing this behaviour of bursting into tears when they feel angry in adulthood. Likewise a little boy told not to cry may act in anger to get validated and later on in life when his feelings are hurt he defaults to angrily lashing out.

The danger is that the ‘cover emotion’ doesn’t work effectively enough because it isn’t really what we need to express.

When we keep feeling a feeling over and over without it truly passing it may be because it’s not the authentic feeling. No point shouting and swearing and everyone staying out of your way if you really need to have a good sob and be held.  Equally no amount of crying and being comforted will expel the extra energy that comes with our anger.

Pay close attention to the feelings you’ve deem ‘ok’ to feel and the ones that don’t seem as welcome. There are healthy ways to express ALL feelings and receive the support, reaction or validation needed.