Thoughts, Feelings and False Positivity

Susan David in her groundbreaking Ted Talk The Gift and Power of Emotions puts into simple words what I have spent many years trying to explain to my clients.

One of the first things I like to share with troubled clients is “your thoughts and feelings are not real” they are the result of the information you think you have – the perhaps faulty information. They are the result of the stories you are telling yourself based on this information.
And the uncomfortable feelings are more often than not a result of faulty information and resistance to the world as it is. “Positivity is the new moral correctness” Susan explains. We are so busy telling ourselves how things SHOULD be that we don’t see things for what they are, and we sit in continual anxiety and frustration because they aren’t the way we think they should be.
This includes, by the way, our negative feelings. We think we SHOULDN’T be feeling this way or that way. So we try to squash it down, pretend it’s not there or we get sucked into the swamp of despair because we think we are failing.

When in fact by feeling and acknowledging feelings is actually the BEST way to grow and become stronger.

One of the next things I might share with a troubled person is that the more we try dodge those feelings we perceive as bad, the harder we are making it for ourselves. Feelings dealt with on either extreme – focused on completely or denied – cannot be useful. It is the middle path – of observing our feelings and looking at what it is they are telling us, that will help us the most.

How do we use our feelings in a useful way? How do we become emotionally awake and agile?

When faced with uncomfortable feelings, there are a few questions you could ask yourself:

1. What thoughts are leading to these feelings?

2. Are these thoughts true? Are they factual and objective? If you can’t research this on your own, get a few different perspectives to check and fully examine the quality of your thoughts. 

3. What exactly is this feeling? Be specific because this will give you the information you need. This feeling is trying to send you data. Much like the physical feeling of putting your hand on a burning hot stove. But if you incorrectly define the source, and decide that the pain in your hand is being caused by the kettle across the room, well you are going to lose your hand. The same goes for emotional feelings.

4. Am I this feeling or is this just a passing piece of data about my world?

5. What – armed with these answers – can I practically do to change and improve the situation?

As the Buddhists say – life is suffering – we cannot live without the downs… They are an integral part of it all. Without them how would we know we are having an up? Without them we would be zombies – the living dead. Out of touch with reality and ourselves. Numb.

Without the hardships and challenges we would never learn and grow. I have made my biggest leaps in this human beingness only after some of the biggest stresses and sadnesses. When I am comfortable why do I need to challenge my thinking, why do I need to change anything?

It is becoming a buzzword – embracing your shadow. Everyone who’s anyone is getting hip with shadow-work.

So embrace your feelings – accept the difficult emotions – because they are there whether you want it or not – but don’t let them take over… Much like you wouldn’t give control to an unruly toddler. Learn to step away from them slightly – to allow them to pass by like a cloud in the sky. Observed and used for what they are – a means to an end. Yes a bad feeling FEELS bad. Let it. It’s supposed to. And we know that it will pass.

It is in resistance and denial that we create the most pain. In awareness, acceptance and calm wonder, gentle questioning and then appropriate action that we will find greater peace.

And take a listen to Susan – she is my new hero – I hope to one day have the privilege of meeting and perhaps sharing.

All rights reserved © Melanie Harvard – the uncommon coach TM