“Be confused. It’s where you learn new things. Be broken. It’s where you begin to heal. Be frustrated. It’s where you start to make more authentic decisions. Be sad, because if we are brave enough we can hear our heart’s wisdom through it. Be whatever you are right now. No more hiding. You are worthy, always.” (S. C. Lourie)
Even the happiest, most “well-adjusted” people have a bad day now and then. (I am talking about a temporary unpleasant mood, not a long-term state of being.) Sometimes, regardless of our best holistic health life styles and attitudes, we fall in a ditch. Ditch happens.
The absolute worst thing you can do is to struggle to get out of the ditch. It is like when your car slides into the mud. The harder you push on the gas pedal trying to get out, the deeper the tires dig into the mud. The worst thing you can tell yourself is how you need to Not to feel this way; or ask yourself where you went wrong in your enlightened way of thinking and feeling; or start analyzing every nuance of mood or thought. No, instead, just relax into the feeling, knowing that it is temporary and has something to teach you. Don’t be afraid of it. You don’t have to figure out the “lesson” while you are in the ditch. It will come to you after you have emerged. Occasionally, work is taking place in you on a unconscious level when these strong feelings appear; and instead of having some new insight afterward, you will simply feel lighter and more free.
As the quote from S. C. Lourir above teaches, our emotions have purpose. Allow them to be heard and to serve their purpose. Of course you don’t want sadness, elation, frustration, anger, guilt, or fear to become frequent visitors or permanent guests. In that case, you would need to see a professional; but for the temporary times of unpleasant emotion, Listen. Listen to what that emotion has to tell you. Perhaps there is a course-correction necessary in your life. Perhaps you need to take a break from work or other activity that has gotten out of balance. Or, perhaps you need do nothing at all but let that emotion have its time and then pass. Sometimes, an old pent-up emotion from the distant past (of which you had been unaware) will be felt as you are releasing it, but then it is gone. To use a crude analogy, it is like kidney stones. You might have one, but never feel it until it is leaving.
Without struggling, you can gain a great deal from any pure emotion. By “pure,” I mean one that is not tinged with hatred, or shame. Those are just irrational states, and not “emotions.”
Allow yourself to be just the way you are in the moment without judging or pressuring yourself to be any different. And, if anyone else is judging you or pressuring you, by all means, slap them. You will instantly feel much better.
What to Do while you are in the ditch? (It can be really boring in there.) It can be helpful, speed the process along, or at least make it more bearable when you engage in cardio exercise, meditate, calmly pray (Not with “desperation”), or listen to music. You will emerge from these troubling times, a much more evolved person.
Embrace your life, just the way you are.
Christopher Knippers, Ph.D. December 14, 2016