One of the reasons I’m not a proponent of marijuana legalization is that folks who use it regularly don’t develop skills to handle difficult emotions. For example, when a teen experiences rejection, or disappointment, or sadness, or anxiety and regularly uses pot to soften those emotions, he or she doesn’t learn what to do with those emotions without the happy plant. Substances are reliable after all.
And here is a truth of life: Problems get bigger as you get older. So, if you don’t learn how to handle hard feelings at 16, you definitely won’t know what to do at 26 or 36.
By the way, this is bigger than marijuana use. Any substance can be used to avoid facing reality. If a woman uses Tylenol PM on a regular basis to fall asleep, what is going on that she’s not falling asleep? Is her marriage rocky and peace hard to find when sleeping next to her husband? (Or, perhaps a more difficult situation, is she drinking too much coffee?) If a man drinks alcohol each night after work to unwind, what about his life is producing such a high level of stress that he can’t mitigate it without the alcohol? I’m part of a field that is sometimes referred to as behavioral health. We look for what behaviors might be causing, maintaining, or able to stop a particular problem. Substances serve a purpose, but there is usually a better way.
The better way, in my opinion, is to learn how to face difficult emotions. The only way to learn something is to do it. The same is true with feeling hard things like grief and guilt. The only way to learn how to feel something difficult is to feel it. You have to tolerate the feeling and learn that you will come out on the other side. The next time you feel that emotion, you somehow know deep inside that you’ve done that before and you’ll be able to survive again. And as the pains get deeper, more personal, more confusing, you’re able to hold those feelings because you’ve exercised that muscle many times previously.
My advice: Feel it. You can do it. You will come out on the other side.
If you’d like to discuss these difficult emotions with a counselor, our experienced therapists at Envision would love to talk with you about how to change behaviors and begin processing feelings in a healthier way. Contact us today.
Author: Veronica Johnson