Who Are You Inviting Inside?
January 10, 2018
Feeling Lousy? Cranky? Anxious? Maybe discouraged and powerless? Or just plain ole tired? Heck, maybe the gloomy train has just stopped by and scooped you up. Awesome!
Wait, what? [head snaps backwards].
Whatdya mean “awesome”? You some kind of sicko that feeds off people’s misery?
Ah, no. It’s awesome because this post is dedicated to yucky-feeling emotions. So if you’re feeling yucky you’re in the perfect place to discuss these devilish little creatures.
Secret Children of Unhappiness
Meet grumpy, grief, depressed, bored, lonely, resentful, pessimistic, angry, frustrated, numb, empty, insecure, distressed, overwhelmed, bossy, deprived, and fearful. Just to name a few. They sound like the 7 dwarfs that hung around grumpy too long and then bred like crazy! And now there’s hundreds of ‘em! [hee hee].
Who are these little critters and what do they want with us? Let’s dive in.
At first glance, these little scoundrels seem quite different and unique from one another. Restlessness feels very different from anger, which feels very different from anxiety, which feels very different from boredom. But what I've come to realize is all these feelings have one thing in common. They’re basically various forms of unhappiness.
Hey, I wonder if Grumpy really is responsible for all this misery!
Anyway, it’s kinda like unhappiness has all these children or cousins or something. I’ve gotten to know most of these little youngsters quite intimately over the years. They’ve paid me lots of visits. And suspiciously, they show up at the same time I'm feeling unhappy. Coincidence? I think not!
It’s sorta like our feelings fall into one of two categories: those that feel good and those that don’t. So, let’s call the good feeling category “happiness” and the not-so-good feeling category “unhappiness”.
If you think about it, it’s kinda simple, actually. We’re either feeling good or we’re not. I mean, I don’t know about you but I can’t feel good and bad at the same time. I can't feel depressed and elated at the same time. Or excited and bored. Or angry and peaceful. Deflated and exuberant. Empty and fulfilled. Disappointed and excited. Confused and clear. You get the idea. We’re either in one camp or the other. Not both. Not at the same time.
Why is it important to understand whether feelings fit into the happy or unhappy category? For me, it simplifies things. You see, most times that’s all I need to know. Am I happy or unhappy? I don’t need to delve deeply into my feelings every single time. Why not? Cuz a person can get lost in there!
Have you ever felt a tad grumpy and so you decided to investigate your feelings? But the more you dug and reflected, the grumpier you got? And before you knew it, you were really ticked off? You were angrier than before you started? I hate it when that happens! Because it means I just created more work for myself. Now I have further to go to get myself back into alignment with who I really am.
It reminds me of mowing the lawn. I’ve always thought of it as kind of a strange practice. We plant grass seed, water it, and let nature take its course. So then it grows. And we have to mow it. And then we set up a sprinkler system to keep it alive. So it grows. So we can mow it. Then we fertilize it. So it’ll be green and healthy and strong. So it’ll grow. So we can mow it more. In the end, we’ve created a new job for ourselves. Now we’re pulling weeds, watering, fertilizing and mowing the lawn every week.
Call me lazy but I prefer not to create more work for myself. Because I’d rather be doing something FUN instead. But heck, if you love tweaking lawns…knock yourself out. We need people like you or we’d live in cities and towns devoid of greenery.
But even if you like creating lawn work for yourself, you probably don’t want to create more emotional work for yourself. You don’t want a longer trip back to your happy place. For me, there is a time to dig deeply into emotion—but it’s not every time. Cuz there’s no guarantee I’m healing myself just because I’ve gone fishin’ again. There’s no guarantee I’m gonna feel better. I mean, once I’ve traipsed down a path, how many more times do I need to walk that same path to rediscover the same thing?
Ah, yup. Same big ugly fish. Still here.
Lotsa times it just means I’m spending more time away from feeling good. And that’s not what I’m aspiring for. I wanna feel good more of the time, not less.
So here’s a question you might be wondering: Why is it important to recognize when we’re unhappy? I mean, the feeling’ll eventually pass in its own time, right?
Here’s my answer...
[drum roll please]…
Because if we’re feeling unhappy, we’re suffering emotionally.
What? What’chu talk’n ‘bout, Willis?
Yup, if we’re feeling unhappy (which includes unhappiness’s relatives too), we’re s-u-f-f-e-r-i-n-g. That’s what I’m sayin’. You see, when I reflect back on time I've spent with unhappiness’s relatives, there was definitely a lot of suffering going on. Here's a sampling of those times.
When I was feeling:
- confused about what to do with my life
- guilty for losing my patience
- remorseful for judging others
- embarrassed with how I looked
- ashamed of my emotional ranting
- bored from “going through the motions” of life
- afraid for my financial security
- worried I wasn’t being a good mom
- embarrassed for saying something “stupid”
- enraged because my voice wasn’t heard
- pathetic when taken advantage of
- frustrated with my significant other(s) for not connecting
- heartbroken from the loss of a loved one
- paralyzed by deep depression
- and so anxious I couldn’t answer the phone or doorbell
Can you relate? During those moments, hours, days, weeks, months, years, I suffered. No doubt about it.
What Is Suffering?
In my book, suffering is anything that doesn’t feel good. Cuz that’s what we’re shooting for, right? We want to feel good! Reaaaaaaally goooooood!
Can I recall a time when unhappiness or any of its relatives actually felt good? Nope. Nada. Ziltch. So, according to our definition, when my feelings don’t feel good there’s suffering going on.
Are there different degrees of suffering? Absolutely. Feeling a little irritable for 10 minutes entails far less suffering than being crippled with depression or stuck in grief for months. But that doesn’t mean suffering wasn’t experienced in both cases. Obviously, there’s a huge difference in the intensity and duration of the pain. But make no mistake—they’re both suffering.
The reason I know unhappiness equals suffering is because we’re beautiful, amazing, powerful souls of light, love, and joy. Did you see “unhappy” in that description? We’re not naturally unhappy. That’s not who we are. And when we’re being something we’re not, we’re suffering. Because there’s a disconnect. We’re going against our true essence. Our wholeness. Our centre. More on who we really are in Like a Diamond in the Sky.
You see, unhappiness and suffering go hand in hand—at least that’s been true for me. When I’m feeling good inside, there’s no suffering to be found. I’m joyous inside and out. Even while doing my not-so-favourite things. Like cleaning toilets.
Did you know you can feel joyous while on your knees scrubbing poop? Or scraping that burnt crusty stuff out of the oven? Or trying to fold up fitted bedsheets? Which, by the way, I can never get to look right. It’s like trying to fold giant batwings. It’s as if they have no edges or sides or something. Mine seem to turn out a different shape every time.
On the flip side, when I’m not feeling good inside, there’s no love and joy being expressed on the outside. It’s like the energy just fizzles out and dries up. And it becomes work just to smile. It’s really torturous.
The problem is most of us are socialized to minimize and disregard small amounts of suffering. Emotional pain is often only considered suffering when it becomes so intense its victim is no longer functioning. Or, sadly, we only see it in hindsight after suicide. So we often don’t acknowledge the real effect suffering has on us.
When we feel a tiny amount of displeasure or discomfort, we say “ah, it’s nothing”. We tell ourselves it’s just something we need to get over.
By the way, “ah, it’s nothing” is code for I’m just gonna stuff this feeling and hope it goes away”.
Suffering doesn’t have to reach high intensity for it to be real. Or felt. Suffering doesn’t have to last all day or many months for it to be real. Or felt.
Any degree of unhappiness is simply shades of emotional suffering.
The way I look at it is any time unhappiness’s relatives come to visit me, my suffering begins. Maybe it starts super tiny but the longer they visit, the greater the pain. Geez, talk about relatives you don’t want to open your home to. No wonder I don’t particularly enjoy entertaining! [wink]
A Crayon In The Sand
So when is unhappiness considered suffering? Where do we draw the line?
Well, I use joy to draw that line. And I draw it with a big, thick, sticky, purple crayon. If my feelings fall into the happy category…Wonderful! Awesome. Break out the homemade chocolate chip cookies! Life is good.
But, if my feelings fall into the unhappy category, I’m not feeling good. And that’s not so awesome. But what is awesome is I’m paying attention. I’m noticing my unhappiness while it’s still a manageable size. Before it morphs into King Kong. Before it becomes a humongous hairy beast, snortin’ and spittin’ and spewing darkness at me. So catching it early means I have an easier time getting me back to me.
By the way, when unhappiness comes to visit, she’s usually coming for a reason. She doesn’t just hang around for the heck of it. Now, you might not immediately recognize her because she’s wearing a uniform. And she drives a truck. On the side of the truck is the company logo “Unhappiness Parcel Service”. Hey, it’s UPS for short!
Anyways, unhappiness delivers packages and inside each package is a message. The message is this:
Come back to you.
Because the further we venture from our real selves, the more suffering we’re gonna feel. So in a way, unhappiness is doing us a favour. She’s giving us notice we’re veering off track. We’re headed for the ditch.
Why am I beating the drum on this?
Cuz drumming is F-U-N ! ! !
Ok, how ‘bout a second reason?
Because feeding our inner sparkle means being honest with ourselves. It means tuning in to what’s really going on inside us. It’s about paying attention to the subtle so we don’t have to experience a bat to the head to wake up. Think of Fred Flintstone—Conk!
It’s raising the standard for what it means to feel good. Because viewing any form of unhappiness as satisfactory is doing our real selves a disservice. And we don’t want any part of that. We aren’t here to live satisfactory lives. We’re here to live fantastically beautiful outstanding fulfilling lives.
Does that mean it’s never okay to feel anything that’s not positive, uplifting, and joyous? Does that mean we’re failing if we have a bad day? Or a miserable month? No. Cuz that’s waaaaay too much pressure. And I’d fail miserably. I mean, I’m not some kinda spiritual master who uses words like Om, lives in the mountains, and can go for days in silent meditation. Ah, no. That’s really not me.
We’re human. And we’re all workin’ at remembering we’re souls. Remembering we’re already whole and complete. So it’s a process. One tiny step at a time. At the same time, we wanna be sure to set our sights high. We wanna know what we’re striving for. You know, where we’d like to end up. So let’s not shoot for “ya, I’m ok with some degree of unhappiness”.
Let’s shoot for the stars. Let’s shoot for “I wanna feel so fantastically in-sync with who I am I can hardly contain my joy. And there’s so much light spillin’ outta me I look like swiss cheese without the cheese!”
Ya, that’s what I’m talkin’ bout.
Wrappin’ It Up
Looks like that’s it for today, my little beings of joy. It’s been such a pleasure and I can hardly wait for us to meet again. Until next time, consider this:
You deserve to feel good. It’s who you are. So don’t let anybody tell you any different. And even if you don’t feel good today, you can feel good tomorrow. Or the next day. Because hope isn’t something that’s gonna keep floating around outside your grasp forever. It’s paying attention to everything you do. And as you begin to embrace yourself for who you truly are, hope is gonna fold up her little wings and nestle back into you for a long, well deserved rest. Cuz you’re going to feel wonderful. Believe it. Your day is coming.
With all my love.
Disclaimer: This is a personal blog and I’m not a mental health professional. Obviously. I can’t possibly know your full situation so please consult a professional before acting upon information from yourpurpleswan.com. Should you decide to act of your own accord, you do so at your own risk. Kinda like skydiving.
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