From Dr. Jane's Notebook

Emotions and their Stages

We are born with a fine set of tools by which to understand and make sense of life. These are called our emotions. Through a fine array of sensory functions, we record the sight, sound, smell, taste and feel of our experiences... and then we react.

Living in a civilized society as we do, we often pass judgement on our modes of reacting. We think that we are being too upset, too angry, too hurt, too sad, too serious... in short, too emotional. However, it is often more dangerous to be civilized, than to do what comes naturally. I'll explain...

Once the crisis is over, there is the need to "let down" and allow our bodies to return to their resting states, and also, to release the feelings which have built up as a result of the experience. When we ignore these feelings, it causes emotional indigestion, which can sour a variety of areas of our lives.

To deny our feelings means that we are still in the stage of denial. To mask our feelings means that we are still in the angry stage. When we find ourselves depressed, it means that we are getting closer to acceptance, and thereby, recovery.

Sometimes it helps to write down our feelings, expressing them on paper. Sometimes it helps to cry. When we have lost someone we love, we may need to say "good-bye". Even if it has been a very long time since the actual loss occurred, the process may still be incomplete. "Old business" may still be "unfinished business", and may require the assistance of a counselor or psychotherapist in order to be completed.

Sometime ago, I received some shocking news which would decidedly have an effect on my life. I remember going through the day as though it really didn't happen (denial). When I was again faced with the news, I became angry (anger), and began thinking of ways that I could have prevented the situation (bargaining). After several days of trying unsuccessfully to change things, I became very sad (depression). I stayed depressed for 48 hours, taking small bits of comfort from the kind words of friends, but mostly just allowed myself to feel my emotions. Only then was I able to begin my healing process (acceptance). The next phase of my life was about to begin.

It is often scary to pass through a tunnel... but it is also the quickest way to get to the other side of the mountain.

ęCopyright 1989, 1995, Jane R. Rosen-Grandon. All rights reserved.

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Last Updated October 24, 1998 by Gary M. Grandon, Ph.D.