The U.S. is often criticized for being a society obsessed with happiness and self-help books, offering struggle-free solutions for a happier life. If meditation, yoga, and obtaining all the material goods you desire have failed, we have a pill for that. In fact, we have dozens of pills for that; we even have a pill that makes those pills work better!
Yet, the ‘negative’ emotions we experience are our best tools to signal that something needs to change, and we spend too much time and effort repressing and/or medicating them away. It’s important to listen and learn what our emotions are trying to tell us; when you are feeling something, you have to ask yourself:
What is this feeling trying to tell me?
For instance, when I am feeling driven, I can answer that question with: I’m enjoying the challenge of the day. Meanwhile, feelings of sadness or disappointment mean that I need to open myself up to new experiences. Real self-discovery usually comes through going through something difficult, and although emotions arise from our consciousness, they are not our consciousness. We can choose to stop and rise above our emotions.
We all have our ‘go to’ emotion when something happens, when we are experiencing stress or are overwhelmed. Figure out what your ‘go to’ emotion is and next time you feel it, ask yourself what it’s trying to tell you. My ‘go to’ emotion is sadness. For other people it’s anger. A friend of mine came to me recently — she’s a lovely, sweet, kind person– and she shared that she’s having problems with her five year-old daughter, and she thinks she needs to go to anger management courses because it scares her how angry she gets at her daughter. I explained to her that anger is a symptom; you want to see what’s beneath it. Experiencing anger does not make you an angry person, just as experiencing sadness doesn’t make you a depressed person, unless you let it! If we change the thought and root out the cause of the emotion, that feeling dissipates. Instead of resisting your emotions, accepting them completely can be a transforming experience. Don’t try to will them away, just look at the emotion as dispassionately as you can and figure out the source — because nothing in life happens without reason.
I read this quote and it really spoke to me:
“It’s very often our demons that give birth to our angels.”
The bottom line is that we NEED our occasional negative feelings and thoughts. When we have no ups and downs, we simply become content with what’s given, not wanting or desiring something more for ourselves, or allowing blessings to come into our lives. Sadness or lack pushes us to unexplored possibilities. And it’s an intrinsic part of who we are: to strive for something beyond ourselves, to stumble upon an unmapped avenue. But we need our emotions to be indicators and a flashlight in what can seem like a dense fog. Going through hard times reminds us to be grateful for all the blessings great and small in our lives. And being grateful is what allows us to sustain happiness. I can tell you that inner happiness is maintainable by every single one of us. Everything we do is important, but ultimately it’s our spiritual work that guarantees us lasting happiness.
There is neither happiness nor misery in world, there is only the comparison of one state to the other. -Alexandre Dumas
THOUGHT INTO ACTION
Appreciate what your emotions are telling you, find out what they are indicating and take action.