Whether it is at work or in our personal life, most of us are uncomfortable dealing with the ‘dark’ emotions: grief, fear or despair. Uncomfortable dealing with our own dark emotions and of those close to us. But let’s understand these a bit better.
Grief arises because we are not alone and what connects us to the world also breaks our hearts; grieving our losses allows us to heal and renew our spirits.Fear switches on our survival and protection instincts and despair pushes us to find meaning in the midst of apparent chaos. When grief is not processed completely it gives rise to anxiety and depression; fear or despair are often a result of carrying toxic anger.
In addition to challenges with relationships and dysfunctional behaviors at work and home, these dark emotions can lead to a host of conditions such as asthma, gastro-intestinal disorders, high blood pressure, migraines, and back pain.
Because of our inability to cope effectively with our own dark emotions (or of those close to us) we do our best to shortcut these emotions. Common shortcut responses include: ‘be brave, be tough, this is life, it can’t be helped, you will get over it, time heals’…and so on. However, the avoidance and denial of these emotions leads to increasing psychological disorders such as depression, anxiety, addiction, and psychic numbing. Our inability to bear the core triad of grief, fear, and despair is the root cause of much emotional fragility.
Suppressed grief often turns into depression, anxiety, or addiction. Hidden fear easily leads to irrational prejudice, rage or violence. Unconscious despair can express itself through destructive acts to oneself and others, and is the main ingredient for chronic depression. High-performing leaders, loving family members, successful coaches are often unaware of how these dark emotions – rooted in the past – percolate into the present and influence their thoughts and behaviours.
The reality is that grief, despair and fear are neither positive nor negative but simply human emotions. We label them and treat them as ‘negative’ and are unskillful in ways to cope with them. Emotional healing starts when we become ‘friendlier’ with our dark emotions so that we can leverage their energies for healing and transformation. Individual healing is unlikely to happen in a ‘social vacuum’; it happens best in a supportive emotional ecosystem.
A coach or coaching supervisor can be part of your supportive emotional ecosystem and help you process some of these emotions that limit or derail what you can enjoy in the present moment.
We’d be happy to talk to you about it – email us on firstname.lastname@example.org
Reference & quotes from Healing through the Dark Emotions – Miriam Greenspan