The 9 Emotional Beliefs That Are Holding You Back in Life and Love

E.B. Johnson
A woman cries alone in a field at sunset.Image by Johnstocker via Envato

There’s a reason we find our emotions so challenging. More often than not, we don’t know how to handle our emotions, so we shut down or run from them entirely. This can result, of course, in heartbreak and explosions, which can harm our relationships and even our sense of self. Getting control of our emotions is totally possible, but not without first identifying the beliefs that feed this self-denial and shutdown. Once you see the truth, you can work to create new, better behaviors for yourself. It’s a journey that doesn’t happen overnight, however. But it will change the quality of your life (and relationships) for the better.

The most damaging emotional beliefs.

We adopt a lot of false beliefs about our emotions. We develop these beliefs over the course of our experiences with things like anger, grief, and sadness in our relationships with others. While we always build them as a coping mechanism meant to protect us, it usually backfires and creates a pattern of self-denial that leaves us especially unhappy…and alone.

If I'm emotional, they won't like me

Have you ever thought that no one would like you if you were honest with them about how you felt? This is pretty standard in most of us, and it comes from receiving negative reactions to our emotions from parents, caretakers, and loved ones throughout our lives. Generally, these thoughts play out like, “If I show my emotions, the people that I love won’t accept me.”

The underlying false belief: To be acceptable to others, I must never show negative emotions.

Because I'm happy I can't feel bad

There is this absurd idea out there that we won’t feel or experience anything bad once we’re “happy” or “healed”. This idea is outrageous because it isn’t true. It doesn’t matter how happy and whole you become. Life is hard and is always presenting us with challenges. Fortunate people still feel bad things. They just have adopted the skills they need to manage those feelings.

The underlying false belief: If I were happy and whole, I wouldn’t ever experience things like this.

I can out-think these emotions

Just like we tend to think that cheerful people don’t have bad feelings, we also tend to think that the rational people we look up to don’t have these emotions, either. With these beliefs, though, we can come to adopt the idea that we’re stupid or incapable if we feel furious or really sad. That’s just not true. Everyone has emotions. Rationality only dictates the way you respond to your emotional challenges.

The underlying false belief: If I were a smarter person, I wouldn’t feel like this.

Feeling is wallowing

Some people are totally aware of their emotions and what’s going on. But they meet disaster when they refuse to acknowledge those feelings. Many of them come to adopt the belief that letting those emotions in is letting themselves down. They see it as a failure. “If I let these feelings in, I am being self-pitying, I am a drama queen, I am a failure.”

The underlying false belief: Acknowledging my feelings is the same as wallowing in them and will hold me back.

Feeling this emotion will overwhelm me

Human emotions are potent. Whether good or bad, they can push us to lash out and react in strange ways. If we get caught in a few bad emotional reactions, we come to fear these emotions. And we (wrongfully) come to believe that they will overwhelm us in future if we look too closely at them (or talk about them).

The underlying false belief: I will fall to pieces and fall apart if I deal with this challenging emotion.

They will use my emotions against me

Has someone ever used your emotions against you? Maybe someone teased you and called you names for crying? Or maybe they called you crazy when you got angry about disrespect. Once this happens a couple of times, you come to expect this weaponization. This makes you shy away from opening up or trusting others for emotional support.

The underlying false belief: If I show them how I feel, they will use it against me.

Being emotional makes me weak

Some of us come to see our emotions as a sign of weakness. It’s understandable. In many societies, being emotional is associated with being immature. We act as though adults are strong and they do not feel feelings. (Which is categorically untrue.) In this way, we condition ourselves to not to react. So we bury our emotions away until we explode — or implode.

The underlying false belief: Being emotional makes me a weak person.

Normal people don't feel this way

Did you grow up in an emotion-less household? Were you taught that having emotions was something only done by those who were mentally or emotionally inferior? This creates the idea that emotions are abnormal (which they aren’t). In turn, we run from our emotions and deny them at every turn.

The underlying false belief: I have to get rid of this feeling because it makes me weird and therefore not socially acceptable.

I shouldn’t feel this way

As we grow and mature, we take on this narrative that our adult lives should be rigidly controlled. This includes our emotional states, which we come to see as a separate part of ourselves, which must be concealed (if it can’t be controlled). You may think, “I shouldn’t feel this” or “I should be able to handle this without the help of others”. On both counts — you’re wrong.

The underlying false belief: If I were a strong or mature person, I wouldn’t feel this way.

How to create healthier emotional beliefs.

Don’t settle for these toxic and false beliefs. You can set this dysfunctional understanding of your emotions to the side and replace it with beliefs (and behaviors) which are far more productive. Approach this systematically. Address one emotion at a time, then look at the false beliefs beneath them. From here, it will equip you to honestly acknowledge the damage these beliefs have caused and consider better ways to respond to similar emotions in future.

1. Address your tough emotions

There are a lot of tough emotions that we can experience at any given time. Even if they come at us like a wave, we have to learn to stop them and process them one at a time. This is how we get clarity. It’s how we make sense of the way we’re feeling and why we’re feeling that way. That’s also how you need to get started on this path of emotional recognition and regulation. Face one emotion at a time and come to understand it inside and out.

Select a tough emotion to address and make sure you’re breaking it down one emotion at a time. My clients usually struggle with their emotions because they try to take on the tidal wave all at once. That’s impossible. Human emotions are too wide ranging and too complex. Take on one feeling at a time to question.

If you’re uncertain about getting started, look to the positives first. What positive emotions do you get to experience a lot of in your life? They might be happiness, pride, excitement — anything. How do you react to those emotions? How do you share those emotions with others? False beliefs will be the ones that push us to hide these emotions or conceal them within ourselves. They hold us back, and they limit the light we are able to share in our relationships. You can’t dwell on the positives alone, though. The real transformation lies in breaking down the negative emotions like jealousy, anger, grief, etc.

2. Look for the beliefs beneath it

Now that you have an emotion in your sights, you can question the false beliefs beneath it. Focus in. Be honest and give yourself the time you need to seek these truths out. Go layer by layers and go deeper and deeper into your experiences and the ideas that developed around them to protect you. Where did these ideas come from? Why have you come to associate your sadness with weakness? Your anger at being personally flawed? Open up and up allow yourself to view the situation from a removed, third party place.

Identify the false beliefs that are lying beneath your emotional hangups and struggles. Are you someone who believes your emotions make you weak? Does this lead to self-loathing any time you get upset or irritated by setbacks of life? Be honest with yourself and know that more than one belief is usually at play.

Focus on the single emotion you picked in the first step. Maybe it’s sadness. Maybe it’s rage. Whatever it is, question it and break it down. Think all the way back to your childhood and how your parents and loved ones expressed their upset or displeasure. This is where our beliefs begin, but they mutate and shift each time we encounter another major hardship in life (like death, loss of a job, a traumatic breakup, etc.) Compare your emotions to the beliefs above and look for any other limiting beliefs that may lurk beneath the surface.

3. Face up to the consequences

False beliefs come with consequences. That’s what makes them so dangerous. They limit us, and they limit our ability to connect with our loved ones (and ourselves). Worse than that, they keep us from experiencing the fullness of life and love. You must be honest about the consequences of your false beliefs so that you can find the motivation to change them. See the damage that they’ve wreaked and then measure that losses that have resulted from your inability to embrace and accept your emotional messengers.

Be honest about the consequences of these beliefs and the many ways in which they have held you back. Don’t shy away from any of the brutal truths. What has happened because of these beliefs? How have they changed the way you relate to others or yourself?

These can be positive and negative, but it’s vitally important that you focus on the negative. These are the beliefs and the behaviors that we need to change. One of your consequences may be social isolation. When you get angry or sad, you may find that you withdraw and isolate yourself so that you don’t lash out at other people. While this may work out well for others, it doesn’t work out for you. You wind up without the emotional support that you need in order to get through the challenges that you’re facing.

4. Consider a new way to respond next time

With all your false beliefs laid out in the open, now is the moment to replace them with better beliefs which enable you to open up and connect. You’ve got to reconfigure your behaviors, and that can only happen when you recalibrate your beliefs. Our emotions don’t rule the roost. We are the ones who control them. And we control our thoughts and our beliefs, too. Get in control of your mind and the rest of your life will fall into place. There are better beliefs to invest in and better ways to respond to your emotions.

Consider that there are better ways to respond to your emotions. You don’t have to bury them away. You don’t have to bury yourself away. Instead, you can adopt new behaviors and new beliefs that allow you to treat your emotions as the important messengers that they are.

As you break down each emotion (and the beliefs behind it) think about better ways to respond. For example, if you hide your sadness because you feel it makes you unworthy — maybe you could commit to journaling each time you feel sad. Keep a small notebook in your bag or purse. When you feel that grief coming on, find a quiet place to write for 5 minutes. Imagine you were observing like an animal in the wild. See it pass by and note the way it makes your body respond. Write what triggered it too. This is a healthy way to react, over falling apart, or wallowing without positive progress.

Putting it all together…

There’s a reason we struggle to embrace our emotions or manage them effectively. More than anything else, this comes down to several toxic beliefs which we adopt over the years. I always tell my clients that these beliefs are the walls which prevent that deeper connection with self they’ve been craving. If they want to build a life, that’s free of the setbacks their tough emotions offer, then we have to be more honest with ourselves about the things that we want and the way we feel.

Select one tough emotion at a time and commit to studying them and breaking them down. Peel back the layers and expose the toxic beliefs that are lingering beneath the surface. Maybe you isolate when you get sad, or lash out when you get angry. And maybe that’s all linked to these ideas of worthiness (or unworthiness) that you’ve developed over the years. Break these beliefs down. Be honest about the consequences they’re having on your life and your relationships. Don’t hold back. We can’t afford to hold onto beliefs that are creating negative and self-limiting behaviors. For each destructive behavior or belief you uncover, consider that there is a greater way to respond. Get a journal keep track of your progress. Opening our emotional world is challenging, but it will transform our relationships from the inside out when we let it.

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Writer. Host. Certified coach. Host of the Practical Growth Pod. Master Practitioner NLP. Get all my books and resources at the link below.

Pelham, AL

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