rainbow over city

Conflicting Emotions

We often think of the weather as either sunny or rainy, but it is possible for both sun and rain to occur simultaneously. Rainbows are proof of that; they appear when there is a mix of sunlight and water.

It is a similar situation with conflicting emotions. Conflicting emotions, which are feelings that are in opposition to each other, can feel confusing. The following are examples of conflicting emotions: happy & sad, scared & excited, love & anger, confident & doubtful. 

You may struggle to understand how you can feel two different emotions at the same time, but it is possible. Perhaps you got a new job and are sad to be leaving a wonderful team at your current job and you are also happy for your next endeavor. Or maybe you had an argument with a family member or close friend; you feel angry, and you still love that person. If we experience conflicting emotions, we might be inclined to minimize. For example, “I’m happy my friend is going to his dream college but I’m sad that he is moving far away.” “But” can be invalidating and ALL feelings are valid. In such scenarios, try to replace “but” with “and” to remember that the entirety of our emotional experience matters.

If you are experiencing dialectical emotions, give yourself space to acknowledge and consider what you are going through. Gaining clarity about your feelings can be helpful and empowering. Try not to impose self-judgement or tell yourself, “I shouldn’t feel this way.” Accept where you are; give yourself the opportunity to process and understand your emotions. This will provide room for you to make healthier decisions. Be clear on what’s important to you. Feeling certain about your values will allow you to navigate challenging situations with greater ease and confidence.

Remind yourself that we all encounter obstacles. The capacity to confront and address difficult emotions is a sign of growth and progress. If you find yourself in a situation in which your emotions are at odds, remember the rainbow and that it is possible for beauty to emerge from opposing forces ?

A rainbow looms above Prague, Czech Republic. Photo courtesy of Mental Health Missions.