Sometimes Embracing Emotional Distress Is the Best Medicine

This article – subtitled “Avoiding mental discomfort at any cost can be a self-defeating strategy” – has been published in Scientific American and written by Joanna Cheek.

As a side note, the avoidance of emotional distress and mental discomfort is one reason why some people avoid engaging with talking therapies, preferring instead, as the article suggests, to “pop a pill”,

The article begins:

“An unfortunate side effect of the biological revolution of psychiatry is in perceiving emotional discomfort as undesirable or bad, something we shouldn’t feel, something that can be medicated away. And while medications can be life-saving and necessary with severely disabling conditions such as psychosis, mania, depression, and debilitating anxiety, to name a few, perhaps we’ve taken a troublesome short-cut along the way. I worry that mental health may now be seen as the absence of mental pain, flat-lining on happy, or no emotions at all, rather than the ability to live a bumpy, personally meaningful life, despite the pain that goes with it.

How much of our mental suffering is created from our attempts to avoid discomfort, rather than realizing that we can actually allow and tolerate our difficult experiences?

Psychology has developed an equation for anxiety. Anxiety is our perception that bad stuff will happen over our ability to handle it. Often we focus on the probability of the threat, problem-solving to prevent it or telling ourselves that it’s really not that likely, as a way to manage our anxiety. But when there are real threats in life, and real painful emotions that feel threatening in themselves, the solution is in how we actually can cope when thing go wrong …”

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