I read Is it really OK not to be OK yesterday and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. I’m working on a podcast series about beliefs and how they shape our thoughts and actions so I find myself wondering about the beliefs that surround “negative” emotions or being “not OK”. What are those beliefs? Where have they come from? How well are they serving us?
These aren’t questions I’m able to answer in a single blog – not when I’ve got half an hour while the kids watch Saturday morning TV! (Though, I doubt they’re questions I could answer completely even if I had all the time in the world)
What do we mean when we talk about not being ok? If I’m not ok, does it say something about me or my situation? Are my emotions the cause or merely a symptom of a problem? Are my emotions a problem at all or are they valuable clues I could use to better effect? These are questions we’d all answer differently, depending on our beliefs.
We seem to be totally ok with negative emotions in situations where they feel “justified” and, for the most part, we seem to cope with those fairly well. Death, illness and disaster can unite people in their grief and there’s something quite positive about the sense of belonging one can experience in a group going through something big together. But what happens when you’ve been sad for too long or your too sad? What happens when you can’t let go? What happens when you feel differently than others?
I wonder whether part of the difficulty we have in working out how to be OK with not being OK is that we still divide emotions into two camps – positive and negative, OK and not OK. Then we have to force ourselves to believe that negative emotions are ok but really, deep down, they’re emotions we don’t want to come into contact with and when we do, we naturally make efforts to dispense with them as quickly as possible.
For my money, if we’re going to be ok with not being ok, we have to change our underlying beliefs about emotions – maybe instead of “it’s ok not to be ok” we say “all emotions are ok” or even “All emotions have something to say. Listen.”
That has been one of the fundamental lessons I’ve had to learn in my aspirations to have a “Big Happy Life”. It isn’t always happy and that’s part of what makes the happy times happy. They have to differentiate from something in order to be experienced fully. I’m not always happy, nor would I wish to be. I learn about myself every time the dark times loom and every time I descend into them.
This week was one of my most challenging. I don’t have words to describe the emotions I felt. I’m still trying to process them. All I can tell you is that an important figure in my daughter’s life shared some information with me about how she sees me and it triggered feelings in me that I associate with childhood but can’t quite grasp or link to concrete memories. This is exactly the kind of thing that could have sparked months of depression for me but one of the lessons of Big Happy Life is to accept all that comes my way and open myself up to what my emotions are telling me. This time, instead of descending into darkness, I am writing, thinking, talking, making sense of what these emotions have to say.
In truth, I’m quite enjoying the process because I’ve wondered for a long time about some of my challenges around failure and lack of confidence and I think this situation has handed me a key to unlock some of that. It’s quite exciting!
So now I’m out of time and my children’s eyes will turn square if I don’t get them away from the TV and get active. I’m going to need to revisit this topic as there are so many additional layers and levels to consider but in the meantime, I’d love to know your thoughts.