Faced with confusion, mixed feelings, and other uncomfortable emotions it is hard to believe that “this too shall pass” and that there may be wisdom in what you are thinking and feeling.
Tolerating the difficult: Suicide fantasies play with the idea of giving up
The fantasy of ending one’s life or even leaving one’s current life to start another life represents an extreme form of “throwing in the towel” and saying, “This is too much for me” – specifically when living feels unbearable.
The ability to sit with (or emotionally survive) negative thoughts, emotions, and physical pain or illness is a crucial human capacity.
Dealing effectively with frustration is crucial
Frustration or distress tolerance is a crucial capacity that also fluctuates depending on how we feel.
We are more likely to give up when feeling tired, physically ill, or emotionally overwhelmed.
In an assessment for psychotherapy therapists assess the patient’s ability to tolerate frustration based on their history and previous therapies.
Therapy, like life, is not a walk in the park.
Therapy requires being with feelings of anger, shame, regret, helplessness and a host of uncomfortable feelings that our minds often work hard to protect us from.
Therapy: A training plan for building frustration tolerance
Part of the work in therapy is practicing frustration tolerance in therapy itself. The idea is that your improved ability will generalize to other areas of your life – including significant (and potentially troubled) relationships.
Like with muscle building, there is a certain degree of healthy breakdown required in order for one to grow and expand. This process of physical and emotional muscle building is painful at times.
In a McDonaldized era of increased demand for immediate results to complex problems (incl. including nutrition), we lose track of the fact that waiting is an art – and comes with numerous benefits.
Life is not a box of chocolates only.
In our lives we face a number of existential concerns, including:
- death and finality,
- making meaning of experiences,
- feeling isolated (i.e. ultimately we come into and leave this world on our own), and
- the crisis of endless choices we are faced with when we realize our unlimited freedom.
“What you resist, persists.” – Carl Gustav Jung
Humans have a tendency to discount difficult emotions and then try to excise them from our hearts and minds, like we would malignant tumours or growths.
We often provide little space for and often fail to validate feelings of confusion, ambivalence and uncertainty.
These are important emotions and thoughts to experience.
They form part of the complex artistry of our inner worlds; of the full human experience.
Unfortunately, if we discount difficult emotions and thoughts, we only encourage these things to grow larger in size and to return to us at times when our psychological immunity is compromised (like when one is sleep-deprived, physically ill, inebriated, or burnt out).
Everything happens for a reason: Moving forward in a holistic and supportive manner
Can you trust the following?
- these difficult feelings will fluctuate with how you feel
- the uncomfortable will not continue forever, and that
- allowing yourselves to experience the uncomfortable may allow insights and wisdom to emerge?
Sitting with is one step closer to working through emotions that we experience for a reason.