If you put a lid on a boiling pot, eventually the contents will rise to the top and spill over. Human emotions are no different. If we push our feelings down and down and try to avoid them, eventually, they will explode out more fiercely than before.
This is one main reason people sometimes refuse to tap into their feelings, according to psychologist Perpetua Neo. She told INSIDER people can be over-rational, because they think the alternative is someone who cries all the time, is incredibly angry and erratic, and can’t control themselves.
“When you ask somebody ‘why can’t you trust your feelings?’ They’ll tell you ‘because last time I lost my temper, everything went to pot,” Neo said. “Actually, it’s this whole vicious cycle that happens when we oppress our feelings.”
If we bottle things up, they don’t just go away. Emotions will stay down until we physically can’t contain them anymore, then they’ll burst out fiercer than before. And it won’t just be that one feeling, it will be everything else that’s been thrown on top of it since. For some people, it can be years, or even decades, or repressed experiences.
“When it explodes you do things you regret,” said Neo. “You spend too much money on things you don’t like, you sleep with the wrong people you hate, things like that. And afterwards, you say it was your emotions that made you do it.”
By blaming the emotions, we learn they are something to be scared of, and not to be trusted.
“The perspective shift would be working out how your emotions can play together with your rationality,” said Neo. “That actually works much better.”
Emotions shouldn’t be terrifying in themselves. We evolved to have them for a reason. They’re like our “first intel in a war,” said Neo. If you listen to them, they can tell you exactly what you need to hear.
But you need to learn to respond rather than have a knee-jerk reaction, she added. You can do this by reframing the way you see emotions like anger, jealousy, and guilt, so you can identify areas of your life to change, instead of avoiding the pain. That way, you’ll be able to have a hold over how you handle them much easier.
Originally published on Business Insider.
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