That’s Disgusting – an overlooked emotion


On our wellbeing coach training we explore and discuss what we think and feel about various emotions, one of which is ‘disgust’.

Disgust: an emotional response of rejection or revulsion to something potentially contagious or something considered offensive, distasteful or unpleasant.

Charles Darwin wrote that disgust is a sensation that refers to something revolting.

It’s interesting how we don’t often give much thought to this emotion. Yet, a core feeling of disgust can hugely impact our wellbeing.

How? By causing us to reject certain standards, morals and ethics which don’t align to our way of perceiving the world.

This can influence the way we interact and connect with people, those who we welcome into our inner circle of confidantes and those who we push out of the group. If we think of our need to belong this can have a big consequence on our sense of support or lack of it. Take a moment to reflect on your response to what has been written.

How does finding something disgusting influence what we deem acceptable?

Disgust can displace our feelings of empathy resulting in prejudice, inaction and lack of care. I invite you to ponder on this and ask how disgust can influence what and who we deem acceptable and worthy of our time and effort? What may we be missing out on if we have disgust influence the societal boundaries of our identity?

We use disgust naturally to inform us if something is bad, rotten, offensive and a potentially life threatening danger. Yet, what if we have labelled certain foods as disgusting which are in no way a danger to health? How does this influence the way someone would eat, the choices they make? Would this create difficulty in challenging their viewpoint, in introducing change and improving lifestyle habits?

‘I am disgusting’ – the danger of self-directed disgust

We usually think that the emotion ‘disgust’ is directed outward to external things, but it can also be inward with ‘self-disgust’.

So finally, I want to consider the impact self-directed disgust can have on our internal self-talk. If we view ourselves as disgusting, the inner critic which resides within our mind can be amplified. How would this negative self-talk influence a rejection of self and the potentially harmful effect upon mental health?

There was a study recently which correlated high levels of self-disgust with loneliness, with people caught in a loop as they perceived themselves as disgusting or repulsive causing them to be avoidant and reluctant to interact with others. For who would want to be with someone who was disgusting?! [Lonely but avoidant—the unfortunate juxtaposition of loneliness and self-disgust | Humanities and Social Sciences Communications]

Disgust can have huge implications in the way we view others and can bring people together to unite in prejudice and stigmatisation [Why disgust matters, National Library of Medicine]. We may not wish to think of this as true in our own lives but I invite you explore this aspect of disgust in our day-to-day living.

For example, pay attention to how often people say the word disgusting (or intonation) on social media platforms, the media, in books, articles, conversations (especially when it comes to body size and food). Is disgust used more than you may think?

It is often an overlooked but powerful emotion with an important role in shaping our viewpoints.

I invite you to examine the role of disgust in your own life in creating boundaries of what you deem acceptable and not acceptable to your wellbeing. Explore, without judgement, whether disgust is limiting your perception of who you are and blocking you from pleasure, beauty and self-love.

Disgust is a fascinating emotion, its one we all have so spend some time understanding and challenging its role.


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