Stigma surrounds our society. It means that something perceived as different is seen as unacceptable and this leads to prejudice. There is stigma around the LGBT community and mental health among many other issues our society deals with. Stigma can be devastating because it isolates people and makes it harder to reach out for help and support. It prevents people from socialising, visiting GP surgeries and can even lead people to suicide. “The effects of stigma and discrimination about a mental health problem can be worse than the mental health problem itself” says Louise Penman from Time To Change.
This is why it is so important that people speak out about mental health in general and people share their experiences of mental illness because we need to get rid of this stigma from our society. Imagine a society where people could discuss their mental health easily and openly rather than keeping it as some deep, dark secret. Wouldn’t that be a breath of fresh air?
There are lots of myths that exist about emotions and we will all have our own individual myths because of the lives we have lived and the environments we live in. We often believe these myths because they have been a part of our lives for so long, in fact we may not even notice that they are myths, we don’t question them because we hardly notice them. Myths usually originate from family, friends and culture and sometimes the myths we have about our emotions can cause us to act in ways that are not helpful. It is often not the emotions that are troublesome but instead it is the beliefs we have about them and the way that we act because of these beliefs. It can be useful to identify myths and their triggers and to develop challenges and counterarguments to these myths.
Myth: There is a right way to feel in every situation.
Challenge: There’s a whole range of feelings, none are right or wrong.
Myth: Negative emotions are bad and destructive.
Challenge: It’s the behaviour that can be bad and destructive, not the emotion.
I found it really helpful to sit down and look at the myths I have around emotion, I thought that I was relatively good at handling my emotional health but shocked myself when I realised the beliefs I have that many can probably relate to. Some of my myths included thinking that negative emotions slowed me down, the fear that sharing these emotions would make me a burden and feeling like I couldn’t feel an emotion because someone has it worse. I’ve made a list of counterarguments to go with these so that I can remember an emotion is real, if you feel it then it is there and suffering is suffering regardless of who you think may have it worse.
We don’t feel emotions for no reason, even if the reason is something as simple as tiredness, all emotions are prompted by internal or external events and some emotions are prompted automatically and without thought. Most of our emotions are reactions to our interpretation of events and what we perceive to be happening, rather than the facts of what is happening in a given situation.
Emotions are complex and involve both chemical and bodily changes, they are not just happening in your head, they are very real. It doesn’t matter how much you try, you cannot stop the feeling, you have to radically accept that the feeling is happening.
Emotions are a given but you have a choice over your actions, consider alternative actions rather than trying to ban the emotion.