Emotional Health—What is That?

Most of us are familiar with physical health and many of us know what mental health is. But, what is emotional health? Lately, it has received increased attention from doctors, researchers, and the media but we often are not provided with a general overview. One way to describe emotional health is having the ability to express any emotion appropriately. Someone who is emotionally healthy is usually mentally healthy. Poor emotional health is usually indicated by being emotionally “stuck.”

The term “stuck” refers to experiencing the same thing repeatedly. For example, we may be stuck in a state of stress or depression, in our fears, in anger at someone, or in shame or guilt. Based on this explanation, many of us consistently lack emotional health. Others travel in an out of a state of emotional well-being on a roller coaster ride that would make anyone weary. Improving emotional health is one step toward creating a healthy lifestyle.

To clarify this with an example most people can identify with, think of a child experiencing the “terrible twos.” The youngster may experience a complete range of emotions within any given day. These emotions are often felt and expressed without reservation, as many a frazzled mother will attest. Two-year-olds are not usually stuck in a certain emotion for more than a few minutes. Once they feel and express an emotion, it changes. This emotional change is what allows the children to put the emotion behind them and move on.

When people do not experience emotional change, uneasiness becomes their regular state. By properly feeling an emotion, they make it disappear, leaving room for the next one. Even the root of the word emotion indicates a state of change. We must feel and express our emotions in healthy ways in order to achieve emotional health. Unfortunately, skewed emotional expression is far too commonplace.

Repeated feelings of hurt, persistent guilt or jealousy, and ongoing anger or tears are all skewed. The reason the human race has so much skewed emotional expression is that most people were either taught or learned to stifle emotions during their developmental years. Our subconscious and our bodies remember these stifled emotions, which serve as irritants. They cause us anxiety, affect our physical health, and lead us into situations that permit a skewed discharge of emotion.

Though skewed discharge reduces our general unease, the situation is temporary. What we really need is healthy discharge of the emotions that were initially stifled. Identifying the truth behind a skewed emotion can be difficult and usually involves going back to our childhood and the traumas experienced. Once we discover and experience these emotional truths, we will be relieved for good.

To prevent such an uncomfortable situation in the future, we must express our emotions in a non-skewed way. Though there will be difficult, uncomfortable, stressful, and even painful moments, these will pass. They will be temporary conditions, not a continuous state of being. Realize that to be emotionally healthy, you need every emotion, including the unpleasant ones.

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