How comfortable are you with the idea of actually allowing yourself to feel unhappy?
There was a time in my life that I would have definitely tried to overcome my negative feelings by using affirmations, writing gratitude lists, or reading self-help material, but I learned the hard way that this did not help as much as I thought. After about 10 years, I realized I had bypassed some pretty significant stuff.
So now… when I feel unhappy, I absolutely let myself feel it.
On a truly positive note I do have some insight that might be helpful. From my perspective, trying to stay positive when you do not feel it does more harm than good. While I do attempt to contain my unhappiness to a small group of friends who might understand that I am going through a challenge or perhaps a life change, I no longer ‘try’ to always appear positive. With that said, I will often lay low for a few days or spend more time alone because I hate complaining to people who really cannot help.
When I am feeling unhappy, rather than pretending to be positive, here are things I have done that has helped:
- Journal, and be real. Even if every word is four letters for a full page or two, let it out. If you know why you are unhappy, write it. Feeling sorry for yourself? Then say so. I went through a few weeks of being honest about the many things about my life that I was disappointed in and then, out of nowhere, I started writing a list of truly wonderful things that have happened as well. This shift was permanent because I now remember the other side of my disappointments.
- Look for the wisdom. As Michael Beckwith says, “the pain pushes until the vision pulls.” Your pain might be a gift. Why are you unhappy? Do you not speak up? Is there a dream you had for your life that you have totally ignored? Are you waiting for someone or something to make you happy rather than focusing on what you can do today? Make a list of baby steps and then take a small action to establish that you can trust yourself.
- And finally, after years of going over and over the same old thoughts that resurface and bring me suffering, I finally have found this practice as a way out of feeling overwhelmed, unhappy, and trapped. Allow the feeling and drop the story. In other words, feel it rather than letting your thoughts rationalize or try to explain why. As I hear my thoughts come up, I consciously just let them come and go. I don’t dwell on any one thought, but try to stay focused on the present feeling, without attaching a story or reasons to it. This seems to take the ‘I’ am a victim, or ‘poor me’ out of it, and allows the feeling to just be “as it is”. Often when I detach from the story and just feel the feeling, it is like a small disturbance that is quickly forgotten.
I’m not sure if these techniques are universally applicable, as everyone is on their own journey and, I realize, may not be at the same place as I am. One thing I am pretty certain of, disrespecting yourself by trying to please the world can cause a lot of pain and suffering. My gratitude is really profound because it is often about just how amazing life is when you learn to follow the emotions and feelings that are actually your guides. It is not as much about positivity as it is finding my realness and seeing the gifts in that. With that said, I also always try to keep myself aware of not wanting to put more pain in the world. So I give myself space knowing that my unhappiness is mine. And, while I do not look to others to make me feel better, a good friend, who can ask hard questions and really listen to you share your feelings, is worth her weight in gold.