Emotions: Are they good and bad?
Now that we have a better handle on the thought model, and how it works, lets explore our emotions.
I visited Utah State University campus a few months ago to hear psychoanalyst C.J. Sorenson speak about emotional wellbeing. He gave us a list of true or false questions to consider, and while your logical brain might see the truth pretty easily, really ask yourself if you actually believe it or not.
True or False:
Happiness is the normal state of being
Happiness equates to “feeling good”
If you aren’t happy all of the time, something is wrong with you, or you lack spirituality
Let’s start with #1. Happiness is the normal state of being. False.
The normal state of being is a range of emotions and thoughts. I actually did a survey on this concept. I kept hearing from other thought leaders that there are two sides of the coin, you can either be in a state of happiness or discomfort. Is that true? Are we 2 dimensional beings? I went to the public and did a survey on their emotions. I asked what emotion they felt the most, and how often they felt happy or sad. These were the results:
Happy: 680 (62%)
Sad: 150 (14%)
Neutral: 270 (25%)
Happiness took the lead, with most folks saying they feel happy about 62% of the time, while sadness only occupied 14% of their day to day mortal experience. And maybe not surprisingly a quarter of the time we feel quite neutral. I also think it is in this neutrality that the range of other emotions show up- bored, anxious, tired, uninspired, jealous, etc.
Now of course these are “averages.” There are times in our lives when the percentages change. We might feel 75% angry and 25% hurt based on our current situation. But I think here, it is good to note that most folks live in a state of happiness only about half of the time.
Onto #2- Happiness equates to “feeling good”. False.
Happiness can co-exists with struggle. How is this so?
Psychology Today gives a great explanation:
“The height of personal happiness can only be measured by the depth of personal sadness. Happiness is not a stand-alone feeling. Happiness is a comparative emotion. The measure of happiness a person feels is judged against the measure of sadness a person felt in the past. The greater degree of sadness, the greater degree of happiness. Without sadness, happiness has no meaning. Ironically, the fear of emotional sadness often restricts a person’s ability to experience the high heights of happiness.”
Isn’t it ironic that our resistance to suffering and sadness are actually inhibiting our ability to truly feel joy!? Dr. Peck, a clinical psychologist, has also stated that our resistance to suffering is the root of all mental illness. It rings true! SO- to truly feel happiness, we must allow sadness sometimes too. We need to make space to feel all our emotions.
I also have to add this quote that has stuck in my mind for years from 13th century poet Rumi:
“Sorrow prepares you for joy. It violently sweeps everything out of your house, so that new joy can find space to enter. It shakes the yellow leaves from the bough of your heart, so that fresh, green leaves can grow in their place. It pulls up the rotten roots, so that new roots hidden beneath have room to grow. Whatever sorrow shakes from your heart, far better things will take their place.”
And of course #3- If you aren’t happy all of the time, something is wrong with you, or you lack spirituality. False.
We can probably see by now why that is false. I venture to say something is wrong with you if you do feel completely happy all of the time. Haha.
When I teach about progression, I like to remind folks that with anything there is going to be resistance. That is just the world that we live in. I think the sooner we accept that, the sooner we will step into reality and quit living in the smoke and mirrors of social media and societal expectations.
Growth is not exponential. It is not a straight line going upwards. Because of life’s resistance, it pushes back on what you push forward and/or upward. It will go up and down, up and down. We often take a few steps forward and one step back. Sometimes one step forward 2 steps back. In fact, it looks like a zig zag, or more appropriately- a heart beat, letting you know you are alive. If it were a flat line– – – you would be dead. You wouldn’t really be living. The key to progression, especially when the world is pushing back, is to keep on getting back up and trying again! You might have to adjust, get a mentor, or gain more knowledge in what you are trying to do, but that’s the whole point isn’t it? You’re growing. And just see if that growth doesn’t bring you happiness!
One last true of false question to end the post:
There are good emotions and bad emotions. What do you think? True or False?
Again, it’s False!
An emotion is an experience within your body from a thought or a perceived threat that moves you to act. It is trying to tell you something. Emotions are neither good nor bad, just informative. We make them good or bad based on the actions we take because of them.
If you witness an injustice is it ok to feel angry? Of course it is. But what are you going to do with that anger? Something productive, or destructive? That part is up to you.
You might feel an all consuming love for someone. Does that make it good? Depends on if you act on it, and how you act on it. You might also fear losing that person, so you use manipulation to control them. Or maybe you just choose to never tell them how much you really care.
**The next time you feel a strong emotion, I challenge you to sit with it, and ask yourself:
What thoughts am I having that are creating this emotion, and what do I want to do with it?
How can I act in a way that is in alignment with how I want to show up for others?
It doesn’t have to be reactive. **