Curious & Curiouser Podcast, Episode 18: Breakups, Breakdowns, & the Fallacy of Bad Emotions

Let’s face it. We live in a culture that likes to label things, a culture that likes dichotomies, a culture that is uncomfortable with grey areas and uncertainty and things that don’t fit neatly into predetermined boxes.

And this preference applies to our emotional experiences as well. Which is why we like to label emotions as either “good” or “bad”, “positive” or “negative,” and then avoid the so-called negative emotions as much as possible. But what if these labels aren’t actually helpful or useful or even true?

That’s the conversation Tracey and I are having on today’s episode of the podcast. Specifically, we’re asking the question:

What happens when we stop labeling emotions as good or bad and just allow them to be?

We talk about anger, fear, sadness, anxiety, grief — all emotions that get tossed into the arbitrary “Bad Emotions Box” — and explore the ways in which these emotions are not inherently negative and can even contribute powerfully positive experiences to our lives.

Tracey and I talk about how women often struggle with anger and why engaging with this emotion when appropriate is important.

We talk at length about break-ups (the last ten minutes of the episode is dedicated almost exclusively to this topic) and why the grief you feel after a relationship ends can vary wildly in its intensity and duration, and why feeling ashamed or guilty about grieving for any period of time is often counterproductive to the healing process.

This episode is full of useful resources, personal anecdotes from both Tracey and myself, and even a brief reference to Eddie Izzard (my favorite comedian, who you definitely need to watch if you haven’t before). We hope you enjoy this conversation and find some snippet of wisdom to use in your daily life.

As always, sharing is caring, so please forward this episode to a friend who might also benefit from the information. And if you have a spare moment, please jump over to the show page on iTunes and leave us a 5-star rating. It’s super easy and we would be ever so grateful if you would do us this small favor and help more folks find the podcast. Many thanks in advance!

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Highlights from this episode include:

  • “Emotions. They are just like weather” on Tracey’s website
  • Can you can feel multiple emotions at the same time?
  • How Tracey uses the idea of something be bittersweet to talk about emotions with her kids
  • Our culture’s compulsion to label everything and its discomfort when labels don’t fit
  • Can we control our emotions?
  • The idea of allowing and “holding things with loose hands”
  • Our tendency of pathologizing sadness and calling it depression
  • We like to label, control, and fix things — including our emotional experience
  • What healthy anger looks like and how women struggle to engage with their anger
  • Helping children express anger in a healthy way
  • How Chinese medicine understands anger
  • The relationship between anger, confidence, and setting boundaries
  • How anger can provide momentum for making important changes in our lives
  • Shame about grieving for longer than we think we should or feeling angry when we think we shouldn’t
  • The benefits of feeling the full spectrum of emotions
  • When other people’s difficult emotions make us uncomfortable
  • How I see my history of anxiety and depression now
  • Eddie Izzard and the pursuit of happiness in America
  • Oatmeal, eggs benedict, and contentment
  • Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert and why we are terrible at predicting what is going to make us happy in the future
  • Why how we talk about our emotional experience matters
  • Talking with kids about fear and worry
  • Sadness, grief, anxiety, worry, and/or anger are not mutually exclusive with optimism
  • Maintaining a positive outlook in spite of the current political climate in the U.S.
  • Inside Out movie; Movie trailer:
  • Tracey on the Working Parents Lawcast
  • Our experiences of being emotionally sensitive and how to parent sensitive children — building emotional armor
  • Tracey and I talk about having anxiety as kids and how it affected our digestion similarly growing up
  • Grief as a process
  • Does the amount of time you were in a relationship correlate with how long the grieving process lasts following a breakup? Should it?
  • The four month relationship that took me more than a year to move past after the breakup happened
  • How Tracey moved on quickly following the end of her 20 year relationship and the pain she felt following the end of a 2 year relationship
  • Is the pain after a breakup always about the other person and/or the end of the relationship or is it about something else?
  • Episode 12 of the podcast about the stories we tell ourselves
  • Awe is Awesome:  Emotions, Inflammation, and How Your Thoughts Change Your Physiology on my website
  • Is happiness ever a destination or an endpoint?
  • Study on awe and inflammation
  • Bonus link:  Eddie Izzard on the awesomeness of the universe
  • And more!

Today’s animal spotlights from the Pixie Project:

OLIVER, a beautiful 2 year-old cat who was recently found in the countryside. Oliver is super fluffy and soft, and weighs in at a healthy 13lbs. He loves humans and most other animals, and is super low-maintenance. Oliver also reminds me SO MUCH of my very own Paco — one of our show mascots — so he caught my attention immediately. Visit his profile here and take him home for snuggles!

CRUMPET, a sweet 1 year old Black Mouth Cur mix weighing in at 38lbs. Crumpet is not such a fan of city living, so a more rural home would be best for her. She loves other animals, however, and would do best in a house with another dog. She also needs an experienced dog owner who doesn’t mind teaching her some of the basics. Crumpet promises to cuddle with you at the end of the day in return for your attention. Check out her full bio here. Let’s find her a new home, shall we?

Once again, reviews are appreciated! Better yet, go subscribe in iTunes! If you’ve been enjoying the show and have found any of the episodes useful, please consider giving us a 5-star rating by clicking the stars and adding a review, if you feel so inclined. It would make Tracey and myself so very happy if you did so.

Finally, if you have any topics or questions you’d like us to address in a future episode comment here or email us at our joint email account: We’d love to hear from you!

Thanks again for listening! We so appreciate the support!