Stop crying. Stop breaking down. You have to focus on better things. Be happy. Be positive. It will be all fine.
Most people say similar things when they see someone feeling sad, upset or going through a hard time. While it’s coming from good intentions and their heart may be in the right place, it is actually blasphemous. We all have committed this sin one too many times. But, I realised by telling someone to try and be happy when they clearly were not, not only I was failing as a
psychologist, I was failing as a human being.
Our feelings are a process and we need to experience all of them. We need to experience all our emotions, in their fullness, in their entire spectrum. And not just the ones that feel good. As a culture, we are taught to seek happiness. We are taught to believe that happiness is the ultimate goal of life. We are driven down its path, we are encouraged to chase it with everything that we’ve got.
But we forget that happiness is not in our control and unlike the popular belief, Happiness is not simply a choice.
What happiness is, is a by-product. It happens to us when we are being us, effectively, congruently, when we are listening to our innermost heartbeat.
I am not against happiness and being positive, in fact, I always aim to strive towards it, individually and collectively. But what I am against is denying the reality of feeling unhappy, feeling negative.
When someone experiences a failure, or is going through some terminal illness or grief, or has a close family member going through it, if someone has lost a job, or has been in a fight with a friend or a partner, or just having a bad day, to respond with ‘try and put that behind you, look at the brighter side of things, think happy thoughts and be positive’ is essentially undermining their state of being.
It is ignoring that person and how they are feeling at that moment. And instead of just being there for that person, what we end up doing is setting our expectations of how their thoughts and feelings should be dealt with, on them. And because they can’t just turn one eight degrees and instantly change how they are feeling, they, in turn, feel that they are letting us down.
The same stands for when we do it to ourselves. We start to make ourselves culpable and if we begin to believe that somehow we are at fault for ‘not finding’ that happiness. That we can’t draw on the energy to make ourselves feel better or make these problems go away. When we face difficulties, when our paths seem clouded, when there is more darkness than light, there is fear, anger and unhappiness. And putting on a smile while our insides are forming battalions and preparing for raging war, is only making us dissonant. It’s not bringing us close to happiness but it’s pushing us further away from resilience.
We often forget the importance of distinguishing between the world (and in turn, oneself) as it is and the world we wish it to be. And that is where all the happiness lies. When we listen and learn from our inner experiences, that is when we are being truly compassionate to ourselves. That is when we truly start evolving.
This reminds me of a beautiful saying by Victor Frankl, “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
We can choose to show up to ourselves and allow ourselves to process what we are feeling. We can name and accept our emotions as they are and instead of invalidating them, take a step closer to the heartbeat of us.