Emotions as Part of Life: Happiness and Sadness.
“Leaving Loneliness: A Workbook:
Building Relationships with Yourself and Others”
by David S. Narang Ph.D.
Emotions as Part of Life: Happiness and Sadness.
Emotions: Happiness and sadness are both part of life. Trying to be happy all the time means avoiding the painful but necessary emotions (e.g., sadness, anger) in life. Since deep relationships, as well as a life fully lived, include powerful positive and negative emotions at times, failing to allow the experience of negative emotions often translates into needing to avoid deep, intimate relationships. Emotions are part of life.
This activity is about practicing acceptance of the more painful emotions in your life, which are necessary and valuable to feel. Another benefit of working on this is that if you accept some sadness, and thereby experience and ventilate some of that emotions, it is less likely to gradually build into a crushing tidal wave that crashes upon you.
If you are not used to giving your negative emotions much weight, or if you are used to ignoring or minimizing them (e.g., “It’s not really a big deal”), you may not pay close enough attention to them, and thus you may not know that you are in need of care in the moment. You may notice the need for care later, but by then you would not understand why you are suddenly feeling so emotional, or why you are feeling so obsessed with finding comfort in such things as a person, drink, perfectionism, something to buy, or another addiction—something outside of yourself.
Do you tend to minimize the distress of yourself and others? For example, are phrases like “it’s no big deal,” “eh, whatever,” and “oh well, what’s done is done, can’t worry about it now,” frequent flyers in your thoughts and dialogue? In small doses, these thoughts can come in handy to cope with life’s ups and downs. However, if overused, they can make you weaker as you fail to notice when something in fact is a big deal for yourself or others, and that the emotional distress calls for recognition and soothing. If minimization is overused, you undermine the value of the information your emotions provide in pointing you toward the precise self-care you need.
Do you think you overuse the sort of minimizing phrases above? Would others say you tend to fail to acknowledge your needs and take care of yourself?
If you tend to minimize instead of allowing a full experience of sadness or hurt when you are truly sad or hurt, what do you think happens to the sadness and pain inside? That is, if the feeling is not expressed or ventilated, where does it go? What happens to that emotions?
We often have unpleasant, unspoken fantasies about what will happen to us if we are sad or hurt (e.g., it would mean we are weak, we will no longer be able to work or function, we will get fired, the emotion will simply be bottomless or never ending, we will be unable to handle our responsibilities, etc.). What is your own unpleasant fantasy about what will happen to you if you allow being sad or hurt?
After the storm (e.g., tears, sadness) comes the calm. You can be depressed or anxious for months or even years if you do not face your emotions directly, and yet ironically when experiencing those feelings directly and fully, you probably do not remain sad or angry for very long. When you are able to allow your sadness to get big enough that you can cry, how many minutes does it typically take afterward for you to feel calm?
What is the single biggest source of sadness that you prefer to avoid thinking about?
Now allow yourself five minutes to think freely about that thing, to be sad, or to experience anything else that comes up. After five minutes (perhaps set an alarm), try to cope effectively through distracting yourself by doing if needed, at that time.
I Am Already Enough, Even Before Improving More
If you have high Attachment Avoidance, it is likely you were raising yourself emotionally, and probably were also used to being largely of service to your mother or father during childhood. You were likely meeting the need of others from an early age, instead of getting your own met. Thus being the sturdy hero for weaker others has become your habit and your need. Alternately, perhaps your family simply had a very stoic style.
Either way, you may have developed an excessively strong sense of responsibility. This orientation to life has its benefits. You probably take on anything you choose to take on with good intensity and effort (for example, in using this book to work with yourself). However, this orientation may also leave you without an internal gauge to measure when you have done enough and become enough, as you are simply used to going on and on in your work to improve yourself and whatever you are working on. Though this is energizing for a time, it is ultimately exhausting. Too much passion is ultimately as exhausting and deflating as too much disinterest. Also, you may have gotten used to doing a bunch of tasks or jobs at the expense of taking unstructured time to get to know who you are.
What are your fears about resting? That you will get lazy or will not get to the goal you are hoping for? The intent of this workbook is not to have you be mediocre or accomplish less. It was created to assist you in loving yourself and living now, as you currently are. Also, when you accomplish things, wouldn’t it be wonderful to experience the pleasure and satisfaction of those accomplishments before merely moving on in your mind to something else that you must do? You deserve a moment to stop, taste that pleasure, and take a bow.
What have you accomplished today? (If you think you have not accomplished anything, think again until you have it.)
Stay with that thought about what you have accomplished for a moment. Resist any temptation to skip it. While keeping these accomplishments in mind, ask yourself these questions:
How does it feel to have accomplished these things, even if there were other things that you may not have gotten to? What encouraging things can you say to yourself about these accomplishments?
When you were a child, did you have to support my mom or dad emotionally, as if you were her/his parent? If yes, how does that relate to your current dilemma of always needing to be bigger/stronger/faster?
If you have trouble sleeping because of all the ambitions on your mind, repeat this to yourself in your own words: “I am enough. I have done enough today. I have gotten enough from this day. I have permission to rest.”