We seem to be fascinated by emotions. We talk about them and try not to talk about them. We think about them and try not to think about them. We roll around in them and try to avoid them. We want to understand them if not release ourselves from their sometimes oppressive grip.
We separate them into categories: negative emotions and positive emotions. Feelings that we associate with pain like sadness, anger and embarrassment become negative emotions. Feelings we associate with pleasure like happiness, gratitude, and confidence becomes positive emotions. Pleasure seekers that we are, we begin to dread the emotions we value as negative and yearn for the emotions we value as positive.
And that brings us to the end of this post; feeling sad is bad and feeling happy is good… just kidding.
What if, instead of avoiding and vigorously fighting against certain feelings, we allowed ourselves to be curious about them? What if, instead of telling ourselves, “I shouldn’t be so sad about this…” we asked ourselves, “Why am I so sad about this?” (and “What do I mean by my attempt to quantify my feeling of sadness with the word ‘so’?”). What might we learn from empathically and curiously sitting with our feelings? All of them, not just the states we associate with pain and discomfort. “What’s happening right now that I feel confident?” “How am I interpreting this event which moves me to feel happy?”
Go on. Give it a try.
A lot of people report that they begin to feel an increased sense of ease in managing their emotional life. Eventually, some people begin to report a sense of gratitude for their feelings- all of their feelings. They learn things about their motivations, their resilience, and capabilities that they might not otherwise have accessed.
As we begin to understand ourselves, our emotions and their function, we feel less desperate to push out the “bad” and hold onto the “good.” We begin to see the connection between our different feelings, that the impermanence of happiness also means the impermanence of sadness. We aren’t chasing one thing while running from another.
I recommend starting with a feeling that gives you pleasure; a lot of people identify the emotions happiness and contentment as good places for them to start. Ok, so the next time you’re feeling happy or content, ask yourself some starter questions:
What’s happening right now that I feel happy?
Why do I connect that to happiness?
What does it mean about me?
Why is that important?
The more you do this, the insights that you get from this way of thinking will produce a shift in how you view your emotions, your control over your emotions, and your control over your thought process.
It can be pretty interesting to try this exercise when you’re at work, too. If you find yourself thinking, “Man, I would way rather be at the beach right now than sitting in this chair in the office.” That might be true for you, that you experience more pleasure at the beach than when you are working, but why is that? What is uncomfortable about being at work? Why? Why do you connect what is or is not happening at work to displeasure and or discomfort?
It’s pretty common for us to think we know why we’re uncomfortable only to find out we had it all wrong. This opens up pretty remarkable opportunities.
Love and Be Loved,