As a therapist, I think the largest part of my work involves telling people that it is OK to be going through what they are going through. Our society has become so afraid, so unaccepting of negativity today that it is breaking people down.
I think one of the most extreme cases I heard recently was when a girl who had just lost her boyfriend, told me that 3 days after his death her parents told her to ‘get over it’.
We just can’t take negative emotions anymore – in ourselves or others – and want to snap out of it as quickly as possible. To make matters worse, we have all this propaganda from ‘positive thinkers’ that you choose to be miserable and that you can choose to feel better. If only.
Step 1: Reverse the Approach
Most people that come to me are grappling, trying to stop feeling so miserable and negative. The harder they try, the harder it gets. Now picture this – if you’re walking down a street and see a few stray dogs, what would be the smartest thing to do? Run? A smart person knows that running isn’t the solution. In fact, the faster you run, the more dogs will chase after you. It’s the same for negativity.
Stop trying to feel better. Let the pain come. Contrary to what you think, you will not remain depressed for the rest of your life or cry for days. That happens when you resist your pain. For once, let the pain come. Don’t resist it.
Step 2: Face It
Depression, anxiety, fear, and other ‘negative’ emotions are most commonly just a sign of a healthy mind. Of course when a person loses a job they’re going to feel afraid and unsettled. Of course when they lose someone they love they are going to feel lost and in pain. It is a sign that you are feeling. It’s natural!
What makes it permanent is our refusal to acknowledge and feel it – must like the refusal to acknowledge and handle the trash in our house, it will soon start to stink and create disease. Which is exactly what it does.
Feel, don’t Think
When we face our emotions, it is important to stay true to our feelings – not our thoughts. A thought is a programmed response to an unpleasant feeling. So whenever the mind starts going crazy, instead of trying to control the mind, ask yourself one question – ‘what am I really feeling right now?’ And feel that more deeply.
If the feelings are too intense to handle, do this.
Step 3: Be Honest
This process often works like magic. And those who have seen its effect have a strong tendency to fall into the trap of pretending to feel so that the feeling goes away. If you find yourself thinking ‘Oh I’ve been feeling my emotions for the last 2 days and I still feel miserable’, you aren’t focused on the emotion at all, you’re focused on feeling better, which is exactly the opposite of what you need to do.
Sometimes a feeling that is associated with our core identity can remain for months before it goes away for good. Sometimes the pain comes emotionally and sometimes it is physical. In either case, what you are doing is surrendering to your present moment with your full awareness. Do this honestly.