Has Anything Really Gone “Wrong”?
On my first day of school of the first grade, I remember the mother of one of my new classmates sobbing as she dropped off her daughter from school. I remember thinking, “what’s wrong with that lady?” because the first day of school had been presented to me as a very exciting day and something to celebrate.
Now that I have children, I understand exactly where that mother was coming from. Last week, I attended a party for my older son’s last day of pre-school. As I was driving to the pre-school for the last time, I had the thought “this is the last time he’ll be in pre-school” and just like that, an overwhelming feeling of grief washed over me, causing me to tear up through most of the party.
I remember going through the exact same thing several years ago when he started daycare and then again when he started pre-school.
But this time, it felt better than it did a few years ago. This time, I knew the source of my own emotions and I also knew how to allow them in a way that felt natural and healthy.
The Case For Choosing To Feel Negative Emotion
Now that I have the tools I’ve learned from coaching, I know how to allow myself to feel negative emotion while also knowing that nothing had gone “wrong”. Yes, our emotions are created by our thoughts, but that doesn’t mean that we always want to think positive thoughts that make us feel happy.
Negative emotions are part of life and now I understand that opening up to feeling them is one of the most powerful things I can do because it gives me complete freedom. It opens me up to the full experience of life.
In my case, I am fully cognizant that my feeling of sadness is not the result of the circumstance of my son’s leaving pre-school. It’s the direct result of my thought “I don’t want my little boy to grow up.” Of course, I really do want him to grow up, but I’ve so enjoyed his being a little boy and his sweet innocence during this phase that I also grieve its passing as he grows into a new, older version of himself.
Even though I know that the feeling is coming from my thought, I want to feel sad about it. I want to grieve this passage from the small private pre-school to the larger elementary school with “big kids.” I want to move through this grief and truly feel it, knowing that I can handle it and nothing’s gone wrong. This is part of a life, a part that I’m choosing to embrace rather than resist or avoid.
What I’ve noticed as I’ve embraced this emotion is that when I just allow it, it doesn’t feel so bad. Knowing that it’s supposed to be here, that nothing’s gone wrong, and that I can handle it lessens its hold over me and allows me to process it in a way that feels purifying and even strengthening.
This is called “clean pain” – allowing painful emotions that are just part of life, knowing that nothing’s gone wrong. What I felt previously was called “dirty pain”, which is the added emotional pain that’s created from resisting or avoiding the natural negative emotions that arise in our lives, or for judging ourselves for having those emotions in the first place. Clean pain is pretty much inevitable if you’re human. Dirty pain is 100% optional and also unnecessary.
When You Open Yourself Up To Allowing Negative Emotions, You Become Unstoppable.
Our fear of experiencing negative emotion stops us in our tracks more than anything else. It’s the biggest dream-stealer on the planet. But when you allow yourself to feel any emotion and you realize there’s no emotion you can’t handle, then you’ll be willing to go after anything.
Think about it. Is there something that you’re afraid to feel? Do you resist or avoid that feeling? What do you do to try to distract yourself from it or numb it? Is that serving you?
If what you’re doing isn’t working, I invite you to try allowing the emotion that you’re resisting for small increments of time. Setting a timer for just three minutes and really feeling that emotion can provide a safe space to begin to feel emotions that you’ve been avoiding. Notice where the emotion shows up in your body and practice really feeling what it’s like. Notice how you survive, even if it feels unpleasant.
Another way to embrace the emotion is to try on the thought: “I’m feeling _____ and that’s okay. Nothing’s gone wrong here.”
It’s really true that nothing’s gone wrong. Negative emotions are part of our humanness and the more open we are to feeling them, the more we’ll be willing to go after what our hearts truly desire and have a full experience of this human life.
Have a beautiful week.