Posted in armchair psychology

Permission to Feel Bad

Some days are better than others. All days are not the same. It is physically impossible for all days to be. If we buy in to certain cultural messages we can easily slide into judgment of these different days, and it’s a mere breath of thought away from a judgment of ourselves: this good day means I did it right, let me try to repeat that (which is impossible); this bad day means I did something wrong, what can I do to avoid this in the future?

I don’t mean to say that we should never use discernment. Sometimes it is simple like that, as in, I ate some crappy food and consequently felt ill, I think I’ll resist that next time. And I also don’t mean to say we aren’t responsible for our own actions: if a person drives drunk, no one did it but him/her, and that needs to be owned. But frequently some days are just “off.” We can’t ever put our finger on any particular why or how. Maybe we catch a cold, maybe we wake up in a funk or have a difficult night’s sleep. Some days just feel wrong. We cannot begin to feel better if we are striving to resist admitting we feel bad in the first place.

I see this as a major failing in the self-help and New Age movements. A lot of talk gets spouted (and a lot of books sold, a lot of seats in workshops filled) with the promise of feeling great NOW and ALL THE TIME, and while that’s just dandy, the shadow side of this is that we can feel like we’re “doing it wrong” when we don’t feel great. “Be extraordinary!” quickly turns into “I am nothing when I am not extremely successful.” The nineteen-year-old who recently shot six people at a Fed Ex facility before killing himself is reported to have said, “A life lived in infamy is better than being a nobody.” Sometimes we just have to sit with our less-than-stellar feelings. Sometimes we may be bored or irritated with some aspect or aspects of our lives. We may be depressed or anxious. We can use these feelings to guide us toward something better, to learn something about ourselves, or to heal, but judging ourselves for having these feelings just adds to our pain. Running from these feelings or trying to escape them can have dire consequences. Or, as I have learned from Lynne Forrest, when we argue with Reality, we always lose.

What feelings are the most difficult for you? How can you strengthen your ability to sit with those feelings as an observer, without running away?



seeker, life learner, local food advocate, unabashed treehugger, herbalist, pontificator

2 thoughts on “Permission to Feel Bad

  1. One of the most challenging things I’ve ever done while grieving the death of my mom was to sit with those ‘less than stellar’ feelings and just be with them. And I think it was super hard because not many people were willing to see me in that difficult place because there’s this undercurrent desire to do something to fix it. But nothing was wrong with me and I didn’t need fixing. It forced me to realize how much of the time we collectively only want to witness those extraordinary times and how I really wanted to be a person to give others the space to be witnessed. Having gone through that time so consciously, I find it much easier to allow myself to feel bad and flow with the feelings instead of fighting against them.

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