The Benefits of Conflicting Emotions
By: Leah Hovey
A friend of mine was recently speaking with me about the new changes she had made in her life. She spoke about a new job, living on her own, and how she has been doing well within the past few months. She also mentioned something that caused me to pause and think. She said “I feel so happy and better than I have been in a long time! But I sometimes have these overwhelming waves of sadness and being upset with what’s happened in my life. How is that possible?”
Her statement got me thinking about our emotions and how conflicting emotions can really impact an individual. So many people can relate to this and feel conflicting emotions daily. it is much more common than one may think. Is this a bad thing? Does this mean the positive emotions we feel are invalid?
Conflicting emotions are not a bad thing. Research reveals that having conflicting emotions or various levels of mixed feelings benefits your overall health. Hal E. Hershfield from Stanford University examined the effects of mixed emotions through a 10-year longitudinal study and found that frequent experiences of mixed emotions were associated with good health (Hershfield et al., 2013).
People choose to either suppress their negative emotions or to express them. By suppressing your negative emotions, there can be drawbacks as failing to express yourself and cope with various emotions can lead to poor health. Another study found that those who repress their negative emotions as a coping method have a more substantial risk of suffering from heart problems, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer (Larsen et al., 2003). We need to feel our emotions entirely and not hide from them. Refusing to deal with our negative feelings can result in stress which in turn leads to health problems.
Having mixed emotions can even be a sign of higher emotional intelligence. By being able to feel both positive emotions without overlooking the negative emotions is a sign that you can cope with various feelings (Shahram Heshmat, 2016). Living your life experiencing positive or negative emotions only does not help practice resilience or coping strategies. Being able to ‘take the good with the bad’ shows that even in terrible or negative situations you can still see the positive!
Conflicting emotions can be a challenge, but by feeling various emotions, this gives you a realistic perspective and can help you broaden your mind about the situations you are in revealing how in-touch you are with your emotions. Knowing that you can find good in the bad will go a long way in life. So advice for those reading: feel everything. The good, the bad. Everything.
Hershfield, H. E., Scheibe, S., Sims, T. L., & Carstensen, L. L. (2013). When feeling bad can be good: Mixed emotions benefit physical health across adulthood. Social psychological and personality science, 4(1), 54-61.
Heshmat, S., PH.D. (2016). What Does It Mean to Have Mixed Feelings? Psychology Today. Retrieved November 16, 2018, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/science- choice/201603/what-does-it-mean-have-mixed-feelings.
Larsen, J. T., Hemenover, S. H., Norris, C. J., & Cacioppo, J. T. (2003). Turning adversity to advantage: On the virtues of the coactivation of positive and negative emotions. A psychology of human strengths: Fundamental questions and future directions for a positive psychology, 211, 225.