No one likes to feel sad.

Sorrow can be hard to contend with and it can seem like it will never go away. Many of us try hard to push those emotions down and ignore them. But ignoring feelings doesn’t make them go away, and trying to do so can often lead to bigger problems down the road.

The truth is that you can’t really push emotions out of the way and get rid of them. It simply doesn’t work that way. Trying to do so is generally a matter of distraction and avoidance. Once the distractions stop working, those feelings will still be there needing to be dealt with.

Even so, there are many who would still opt for distraction after distraction rather than face their difficult feelings. Unfortunately, the consequences of turning away from your feelings can be worse than the feelings themselves.

So what might happen if you ignore your sadness?

Trying to numb the pain, so to speak, takes more time and energy than you might anticipate. It also takes an emotional toll of its own. Here are just a few of the things that can happen if you chose not to deal with your sadness as it arises.

  • You may not feel the sad, but you also won’t feel the happy. Sadness doesn’t just disappear because you choose not to acknowledge it. In the process of suppressing your feelings of sorrow you will also limit your ability for feeling happiness. It’s just not really possible to dampen only one feeling at a time.
  • You create problems in other areas. Putting a band-aid over difficult feelings is a temporary fix. Overtime those feelings will find a way to express themselves, and it may not be in ways that you can anticipate. Unresolved feelings can cause you to over-react to things that would otherwise be easy to handle and work through. You may find that you are quicker to get angry than you normally would or that the smallest things make you feel down. As time goes on you can also develop depression or serious anger issues that affect your relationships with friends, loved ones, and even work colleagues.
  • You can develop bad — even dangerous — habits. Trying to bury feelings is hard to do and the simple act of trying to ignore them doesn’t always work. Often people look for distractions or substances to help deaden the pain. It’s not uncommon for alcoholics or drug addicts to have started their habits in an effort to avoid painful feelings. Or for people to jump into relationships, or become obsessive with hobbies, pastimes, or even work in order to keep from having to spend time alone with their feelings and thoughts.
  • You lose out on life. Emotions are a natural part of the human experience. When you work to avoid those feelings you are missing out on part of what makes you human. You also start to build walls around you that will ultimately keep you from making a real connection with other people. Over time you are likely to start feeling isolated and lonely, no matter how many people may be in your life.

While allowing yourself to experience sadness and pain as they are happening is an important and healthy thing to do, it doesn’t mean that you retreat into a corner and hide. Dealing with these feelings does require coping mechanisms that help you process those feelings in a productive way. And it may very well require the support of friends and family in order for you to really put things into the proper perspective.

If you find that you are struggling with painful feelings don’t ignore them, don’t try to numb them, and don’t try to bury them with distractions. Instead, take the time to acknowledge what you are feeling, and if you need some help, ask for it.