It’s OK to Be Sad: How and Why to Experience Difficult Emotions

eggshells

I wrote this last Sunday, but didn’t post it until now…enjoy. xoxo Nicole

Today I feel sad.  Normally, I might be moving too fast to notice it.  I might miss it because I am busy skipping from one event to the next.  But today is a slow, grey, Easter Sunday afternoon, and I don’t have any plans for the rest of the day.  I am purposefully not turning on my TV or calling friends.  Instead, I am meditating and writing and allowing myself to feel what is coming up in my heart.

We don’t usually just allow ourselves to just feel sad.  We tend to feel like we have to do something to lift ourselves out of this state:  we go for a walk, talk a bath, drink a glass of wine, re-read a positive book.  Maybe we call a friend and discuss the situation until we have figured out a “solution.”  When we feel better, we might even congratulate ourselves on our great self-care skills.   We assume that we are doing well when we have stopped feeling these negative emotions–the faster we can get out of them, the better we are doing.   This belief in the power of positive thought has been further exacerbated by the misunderstood teachings of the Law of Attraction (i.e., the belief that to manifest what you want you must be constantly joyful).

Some of you might immediately be thinking:  ugh–I don’t want to turn into a mess or wallow in the things that get me down.  But this sense of “wallowing” is not due to the emotion itself, but the unskilful way it is processed.  There is another, more skillful way to experience difficult emotions.

The skillful way is to be able to experience pain without fully identifying with it.  Thus, your awareness is large enough to allow room for the difficult emotion AND maintain contact with your fundamental power, peace, and confidence.   You can stay in touch with joy even as you allow yourself to feel sad.  You can feel strong and secure even as you experience vulnerability.  You can feel connected and lonely at the same time.

The best way to develop this enlarged awareness is meditation.  When you meditate, you develop your ability to stay grounded no matter what your mind or heart tosses up at you.  As you practice, you expand your capacity for presence.  Over time, you can handle more rocky stuff without needing to check-out, go unconscious, or otherwise distract yourself from the intensity of experience.  You can use this capacity to experience difficult emotions during your daily life without becoming overwhelmed or confused.

So, okay, we can experience difficult emotions more skillfully.  Why would we want to stay present for difficult emotions?  Why shouldn’t we be practicing getting rid of them, or transforming them into positive ones?

Because something important and valuable happens when we fully experience difficult emotions.  A lot of difficult emotions are tied up around our desire for life to be different than it actually is.  We want to be somewhere else, doing something else, with someone else.  When we avoid those emotions, we avoid directly experiencing life on its own terms. We live partly in our dreams and hopes.  This dream-world might be more comfortable, but its protection becomes our jail.  We lock ourselves up inside the belief that things needs to be a certain way for us to be happy.

When we experience difficult emotions, we come face to face with the way things are.  Even  though facing reality may hurt, the world does not end.  Instead, all of the energy we were using to avoid pain is loosed.   Instead of struggling and fighting the emotion and the circumstances that gave it birth, we relax.  We can LET things be the way they are, AND be happy.  Yes, we may have to wade through some pain and sadness on the way, but we are no longer afraid to experience them.  We acknowledge our pain and vulnerability with a soft, gentle compassion, not with fear or rejection.

With this softening, a new space opens up inside of us.  It is a new place for life to flow, to move, to breath.  Nothing has been solved or changed, and yet all is well.  This well-being is not a mere “belief” in the abundance and goodness of life–it is an energetic death of a closed/constricted consciousness (things must be so!) and the birth of a spacious awareness (surrendering to what is).  How appropriate for Easter Sunday that I find myself writing about allowing ourselves to die, so that we can be reborn.

 

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2 thoughts on “It’s OK to Be Sad: How and Why to Experience Difficult Emotions

  1. Eric says:

    RAIN~
    Recognize what is happening.
    Allow life to be just as it is.
    Investigate with kindness.
    Non-identification.

    thank you and blessings, Nicole.
    ~Eric

  2. vcasalda says:

    Great post, great advice!

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