“We judge, reason, analyze, and rationalize our feelings in an attempt to feel in control, yet we often forget that our feelings are there for a very good reason.” Josh Barad in the article “No, You Don’t Have To Feel Grateful All The Time. Here’s Why.” (Link at the end.)
I wake most mornings keenly aware I have much for which to be grateful.
Both of my children are healthy, working, and have families to come home to. I get to see all three grandchildren often thanks to photos and FaceTime. John and I recently celebrated 41 years of marriage. We love where we live, our business is busy, and I’m doing what I’m passionate about.
I wake also keenly aware I have emotions that don’t always fall on the side of gratitude.
So, what’s my problem?
I talked to my daughter about not feeling qualified to write about uncomfortable emotions since my story isn’t heartbreaking. I don’t feel justified not being happy and grateful all the time. She said I’m just the person to write about how I feel because she and so many others like us need to know we’re not alone. We struggle even if we’re not dealing with devastation like infidelity, loss of a child, or our own terminal diagnosis. We need to know our emotions are okay and they matter even if our lives look easy.
It reminds me of our elementary school play, Scarecrow Dick. My character was Pollyanna. I don’t remember much about the scenes, just that I was the play’s Goody Two-Shoes. My one line was something so upbeat, it turned out to be funny. I remember hearing laughter. Ever since that play, I joked about being “a Pollyanna.” I tried to be happy all the time, which meant ignoring anything that felt not happy.
I had plenty of family and friends who meant to help. When I tried to talk about being depressed (not Pollyanna-like at all), they said be grateful instead. When I was afraid, they said don’t be. When I couldn’t get out of bed, they said get up and get active.
Their “help” compounded the guilt I already lived under like the Zoloft cloud in advertisements. I couldn’t get better because I was in pain I didn’t think I had the right to feel … you know, because I was supposed to feel grateful.
Writing that last sentence reminded me of the time I talked about a personal issue to a friend who, the year before, divorced after her husband left her for someone else. The conversation felt tentative since she wasn’t responding. I tried to back out, but not before she said, “I get it, but at least you’re still married.”
My friend Betty was the first to let me know even though I had plenty to be grateful for (most of us do), I also had permission to have bad days, bad weeks, and bad feelings. She honored my uncomfortable emotions and set an example for me to do the same for others and myself.
“Pain is pain. Theirs is different, but when you’re in pain, you don’t need to discount it even if theirs seems bigger and badder,” she said.
Betty also said, “Don’t compare.”
There will always be people worse off and ones who are better off. Before she explained why we shouldn’t compare either one, I believed it okay to bolster myself by saying, “My life could be worse. I could have (fill in the blank with something bad that’s happening to someone else).”
Encouraging myself in this way lasted about three seconds until I sank lower. Comparison doubled my guilt over not feeling grateful and halved my ability to deal with my own pain. I compared and decided either I was doing better, which meant overlooking emotions that needed my attention orI was doing worse, which meant setting myself up as a victim to ask, “Why me?”
Comparing myself to others kept me from focusing on myself, which kept me from healing. Trying to force gratitude when I was in pain acted as a band-aid, but didn’t fix anything.
One more time … so, what is our problem?
It’s our refusal to feel our feelings. Emotions aren’t a problem at all as long as we acknowledge how we feel, accept responsibility for it, and figure out how to heal. In fact, they’re our God-given guide for getting better.
It took a while for me to recognize how often I pushed aside unwanted emotions because someone else said I shouldn’t feel that way. I risked shutting down, melting down, or making myself downright go-to-bed sick to keep from bringing up how I felt. It’s gotten clearer the last decade that attention to my emotions made more sense than waiting until my feelings caught up with me by way of irritability, ill intentions, or illness.
We don’t give our feelings credit enough for the control they have over us when we’re not paying attention to them … and that’s our problem too.
What’s your attitude about uncomfortable emotions? What actions are you taking to deal with them and heal?
In This Together,
Ignoring Our Emotions is Killing Us, part 1 (let our feelings catch up to us) http://skimhenson.com/2018/11/15/ignoring-our-emotions-is-killing-us-part-1/
Ignoring Our Emotions is Killing Us, part 2 (honor how we feel) http://skimhenson.com/2018/12/22/ignoring-our-emotions-is-killing-us-part-2/
Ignoring Our Emotions is Killing Us, part 3 (cry out loud) http://skimhenson.com/2019/04/05/ignoring-our-emotions-is-killing-us-part-3-cry-out-loud/
“No, You Don’t Have To Feel Grateful All The Time. Here’s Why” https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-25378/no-you-dont-have-to-feel-grateful-all-the-time-heres-why.html