Can Sickness and Vulnerability Be Good for Your Psyche?
Whenever I’m under the weather, I’m compelled to stay inside and forgo other plans. Some simply employ the “push through it” mentality, but not me. My body is telling me to stop, I’d say. To stop what I’m doing — to rest and slow down.
And in the stillness, in the quiet, my physiological discomfort intensifies my vulnerability (and I’m certainly an emotional and vulnerable individual, in general). I think and overthink. I feel deeply. When there is an unresolved, nagging issue, it will certainly rear its head even more in sickness.
When our bodies undergo physical stress, our mental and emotional states may align accordingly. Sickness can give way to rough thoughts, nitty gritty emotions and unpleasantries. Yet, is that necessarily bad for our psychological well-being?
In Tori Rodriguez’s 2013 article, she explains that as a psychotherapist, she sees many clients who struggle with distressing emotions.
“In recent years, I have noticed an increase in the number of people who also feel guilty or ashamed about what they perceive to be negativity,” she said. “Such reactions undoubtedly stem from our culture’s overriding bias toward positive thinking. Although positive emotions are worth cultivating, problems arise when people start believing they must be upbeat all the time.”
Research supports the notion that anger and sadness are integral to our mental health. Attempting to suppress such feelings ultimately can backfire. “Acknowledging the complexity of life may be an especially fruitful path to psychological well-being,” according to a quote from psychologist Jonathan M. Adler in Rodriguez’s article.
It’s therefore recommended to accept the pain you’re experiencing. “Acknowledge how you are feeling without rushing to change your emotional state,” Rodriguez said. “Many people find it helpful to breathe deeply while learning to tolerate strong feelings or to imagine feelings as floating clouds, as a reminder that they will pass.”
Mindfulness exercises, such as breathing meditations, along with journaling and confiding in a friend, may alleviate stress as well.
“It is okay to be vulnerable,” Madison Sonnier said in her Tiny Buddha post. “Let yourself be angry, hurt, embarrassed or nervous without accusing yourself of being stupid and irrational. Your feelings belong to you and it is okay to let yourself feel them and get them out and deal with them. It takes time to heal. If you’re going through a hard time, do not try to force yourself through to the other side of it or convince yourself that you’re fine when you’re really not.”
At times, vulnerability can be daunting; you’re susceptible to emotional pain and unfavorable thoughts. In sickness, when you’re already feeling out of sorts, physically, your vulnerability may heighten. It may shine a light on all that’s raw, unresolved or difficult.
However, maybe staying present and mindful and truly experiencing all that’s adverse is fundamentally beneficial to your psychological well-being. Once you grant yourself permission to feel how you feel, without judgment, you’re on the road to healing what needs to be healed.
Suval, L. (2018). Can Sickness and Vulnerability Be Good for Your Psyche?. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 4, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/can-sickness-and-vulnerablity-be-good-for-your-psyche/