Would you believe me if I told you that negative emotions are key to a good life? That seeking happiness is a fool’s affair and not what the human experience is designed to be about? “I just want you to be happy” says almost every well-meaning person on this planet, but is this sentiment perhaps sorely misled?
Because you’re my audience, you are wise (or getting wiser) to the phenomenon that anything mainstream is either fraught with mistruths or based on the ignorance inherent to a fear-based culture. So, if that’s the case and the common obsession is chasing happiness as much as the almighty dollar… then perhaps this ultimate life goal of becoming happy is worthy of deeper examination.
First off, let’s get the obvious out of the way. Of course positive feelings are worth cultivating. The simple fact that the parasympathetic nervous system (the one that kicks in when we’re calm, relaxed, and content) gives us superpowers is testament to the power of happiness. As a refresher, if you can stay calm and at ease no matter what is happening inwardly or outwardly, your organs get all the energy they need (to generate more energy), your cognitive abilities increase, inflammation/pain decreases, your intuitive faculties (and other 6th sense abilities) engage, and life is ultimately so much easier to enjoy. When the opposite sympathetic side of your nervous system kicks in (ie. fight, flight, fawn, or freeze) we lose our powers. Our blood leaves our internal organs to our extremities (so we can better defend ourselves from the illusory threats we think we are perceiving), our internal organ function drops dramatically, our prefrontal cortex (the part of our brain that makes us so different from our animal relatives) shuts down, our reptile brain takes over, and we ultimately become self-serving stupid robots running nothing but prime directive (survival) programs.
Okay, so just with that one example of our autonomic nervous system’s functionality we can see that positive feelings are quite literally awesome in their effects. So, what’s the value in negative feelings?
Let’s start with the predictable first example: Negative feelings provide the contrast needed for true happiness to feel so damn good. The negative provides the backdrop for the positive. A simple and perhaps expected answer yes, but their purpose goes much further. Consider this: Less than positive feelings are trying to tell you something. Sadness, anxiety, frustration, unease, etc. act as imbalance indicators for example, letting you know when something is not quite right. You can get quite depressed, addicted, moody, bloated, lethargic, and suffer from poor sleep all because the micro-biome in your intestines is out of whack. Toxicity in the bloodstream can cause anxiety and mania and an overwhelmed fatty liver produces feelings of anger and frustration. This isn’t just old eastern science anymore. This knowledge (of the emotional connections to our physiological processes) is now well known (finally) in the progressive circles of western science.
Beyond your biology, negative feelings also have a link to your intuition. Unease, indecision, confusion, and fear, can all be signs that a circumstance or person is not good for you. “Bad” feelings can be telling you that you’re making poor decisions and that it’s time to change course. They serve as signals (if not alarm bells) attempting to alert you of your misguided choices. The unfortunate reality, however, is that most of us spend our time paying no attention to these signals, finding ways to ignore, distract, dismiss, or get rid of them. That or we lack the present moment awareness to notice them at all.
In contrast to the above (and to add to the challenge of human life), sometimes our negative feelings are not signalling us of danger, but of signs of growth. They can be telling us that although something’s uncomfortable, it’s good for us. Challenge, discomfort, and manageable amounts of pain are all required “negative” feelings that arrive when we’re actively bolstering and maintaining our physical strength and inner resolve for example. To illustrate this point, there is a saying that goes something like this: “Hard times create strong men, strong men create good times, good times create weak men, and weak men create hard times.” The meaning of this is quite simple – too much comfort and ease weakens us humans… in many cases beyond repair. Lack of exercise, for example, produces weak bones, stiff joints, slower reaction speeds, poor digestion, lower energy levels, chronic depression, low self-esteem, and cognitive decline to name a few.
On the flip-side of staying too comfortable, let’s say you become wealthy beyond measure, such as from a generous trust fund or insurance claim. These types of situations often leave people extremely lonely, lost, and depressed. They cease to strive toward an ideal and spend their days buying whatever they want and travelling wherever they wish to go, with no purpose to any of it other than fulfilling their random desires. Their life loses meaning as they float on the winds of their whims and soon, despite being surrounded by people (interested in their money and the good times their wealth provides), they suffer from a severe deficiency of intimacy. This soul crushing starvation for connection makes them obsessive and addicted as they attempt to replace real connection with artificial feel-good alternatives like alcohol, drugs, and meaningless sex. If this lifestyle is left unchecked for too long, it can lead to hysteria and suicidality. We’ve all seen the celebrity headlines for this sort of thing. Live the “easy life” (aka. meaningless life) for too long and the end result is severe mental illness the likes of which nobody should ever have to face. Of course all things have their exceptions, but you get the point. In both examples just given, the problem is in getting too comfortable. Taking the easy way has a cost: Long-term hardship. It’s far better to always challenge yourself and move toward short-term discomfort for its long-term rewards than do the opposite.
Those who truly value less than positive experiences are rare in this world. The usual human response to negative feelings in all of us is to make them positive – to force them to change as quickly as possible. The fact of the matter is that this form of emotional suppression only makes matters worse. Many studies have been done on the pointlessness of attempting to force different emotional states (than the one you’re having) into being. A quick internet search will show you how thorough the scientific community has been on this subject. The common conclusion in this research is that fighting against the negative only produces more of the same. Whether it’s substance abuse, food addiction, critical self-talk, or just generally feeling terrible, the worst thing you can do is resist those experiences (ie. try to change them, distract from them, avoid them, get rid of them, etc.). This merely increases their power and makes it harder to stop.
Shitty feelings are inescapable. You can’t get away from them – they are inherent to the human experience. I’ll say it again… you will never escape bad feelings. Ever. Even the most advanced human beings who have reached the lofty states of enlightenment we all look up to have their share of negative feelings. Trust me, I know. I’ve hung out with a couple in my day. They feel pain and the affects of aging as well as we all do. What makes them different however – what their true Jedi power is – is that despite any negative feelings that arise…
…they ACCEPT THEM!
They accept them without hesitation because they know in the depths of their soul that acceptance is the key to fulfillment and the ultimate liberator from suffering. To truly be at peace is to diligently accept what is. And we call this ability (turned into a constant and unwavering state of being) enlightenment. What enlightenment is not, is the achievement of transforming negative to positive or of acquiring “true happiness”. Achievement, acquisition, and goals have nothing to do with becoming enlightened or at the very least becoming mostly content with your life. However, the natural outcome of such true and genuine acceptance is calmness, contentment, and low and behold… happiness.
See the problem is not in happiness itself, but in happiness being your goal, your mission, or your coveted “precious”. Happiness is a symptom… a natural outcome of wisdom – the wisdom to prioritize moving with grace through the unavoidable ups and downs of life… of accepting what is. When you do this consistently enough, miracles happen. A natural healing process takes over and trauma dissolves away, as if by being digested by a system of consciousness no longer constipated by your resistance to “feelin’ the feels”.
When you fully accept life for what it is, you no longer resist it. And to resist nothing is to embrace everything. When in full acceptance, you dive head first into your experiences. All of them – the good, the bad, and the ugly. You embrace discomfort, challenge, and yes… all the negative feelings these things illicit. The difference is, you don’t suffer them. To suffer is to resist. To break free is to accept. Pain is inevitable, but suffering pain is optional.
Develop the ability to accept your objective reality and happiness will passively grace your life as a constant ally and friend. Learn to ride the inevitable waves of negative and positive feelings inherent in existence itself, and come back to life as if a child again. Fully engage with your reality – be with it all… and freedom is yours.
Moral of the story: If you need a goal to hold on to, let it be mastery of acceptance, not happiness. Accept the shadow and the light of life equally. And how do you measure how well you’re doing at your newfound skill of acceptance? … by how happy you feel – the inevitable symptom of your hard work.
If you resonate with these words or found them helpful and could use an ally by your side, reach out. I am here to serve your evolution as an awakening soul of Earth.
Am I fully awake? Let’s just say life is not that black and white. I view everything in reality as a process and I still have my fair share of remembering to do I assure you. Regardless, I’ve been at this incarnation game a while now, and this particular life has been centred solely upon fully understanding the workings of this reality to leverage living it well. Due to this fact, there is a good chance that I am that more experienced father-like-figure you’ve been needing – that been-there-done-that advisor or counsel to the throne of YOU, highly capable of Guiding your way through this Earthly matrix. It’s certainly better than the alternative… which is whatever and who ever you’ve been working with that isn’t catalyzing the change you need to make.
Want to work together? Book a session now, before that slippery ego finds excuses.
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Standing for love,