Written by Dr. Eric Perry, PhD
Image Credit: Pixabay
“Bad times have a scientific value. These are occasions a good learner would not miss.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
I believe in maintaining a positive attitude in my life. But I also acknowledge that life is not perfect. It is impossible to live your life in an inexhaustible positive state of mind similar to a sugar high. Everywhere we look we are being told to be happy and that we have the ability to manifest our perfect life. Keeping up with the wave of positivity can be exhausting and at times, depressing. We can’t allow ourselves to be pressured to live a life constantly rushing from one positive high to another and avoiding any sadness or negative emotions.
Surrounded by the illusion of eternal positivity, it is normal to blame ourselves when life takes a downward turn. It is also normal to develop an aversion to anything but happiness and positivity. I do firmly believe that blatant negativity is to be avoided. But, life’s hard times must be lived and processed much like nature has to go through the slumber of winter in order to experience the rebirth of spring. We have to accept that there is much to be learned from life’s storms. Sometimes we need a thunderous jolt of reality to be awakened by our self-imposed happiness stupor.
We need to learn to sit with what we perceive as negative emotions even if it is uncomfortable. We are constantly evaluating our feelings and tend to judge feelings that make us uncomfortable as bad. We do this so often that there is little if any awareness that we are on autopilot and unconsciously judging certain feelings. We then naturally will do our best to avoid these negative feelings. This behavior leads us to manifest the defense mechanism of avoidance and disconnect from our feelings. The ability to take negative feelings and sublimate them into positive action is a healthy skill to develop. However, the overuse of sublimation leads us to unknowingly avoid and repress feelings which may later manifest themselves as anxiety, depression and an overall discontentment with our life. It is important to learn how to process negative emotions.
Here are some steps I recommend to my patients:
It is important to pause and identify what you are feeling. By recognizing how you really feel about a situation, you can begin to shed light on your true emotions instead of suppressing them.
Take a moment. Take a deep breath and embrace the feeling. Lean into the storm of uncomfortable emotions. By doing this you can begin to normalize the feelings and shift your relationship with these emotions. If the feeling is overwhelming, it is ok to temporarily sublimate these feelings into a positive physical activity. Just remember that the goal is to slowly and steadily begin to acknowledge and sit with these feelings.
By identifying and accepting your feelings, over time you will develop tolerance to uncomfortable emotions. In a sense, you are developing your discomfort muscle to handle more negative emotions.
After a period of time, reflect on what you have learned and gained from the negative event or interaction in your life. More often than not you will find that you have learned something. Perhaps you will discover an inner strength that you were not aware of or a higher purpose for your existence.
We must learn to live a balanced life as too much positivity can lead to denial and too much gloom to a life of existential anxiety. Walking on the tightrope of life we precariously balance on the path we chose avoiding the many distractions that try to topple us from our goals. Embrace being present and live your life authentically, feeling your ups and your downs. Remember, there are no bad days in life, only bad moments from which we can learn lessons that will last us a lifetime. Thank you for taking a moment to visit my blog. I hope you enjoyed this post. I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.
The thoughts expressed in this blog post are my own and are not meant to create a therapeutic relationship with the reader. This blog does not replace or substitute the help of a mental health professional. Please note, I am unable to answer your specific mental health questions as I am not fully aware of all of the circumstances.
Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology
M.A. in Clinical Psychology
B.A. in Psychology
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