In the personal development industry, people are obsessed with getting rid of “negative emotions.”
“Change your thoughts!” “Recite positive affirmations!” “Re-frame the situation!” “Go to your happy place!” “Suffering is optional!” “You deserve to be joyful!” “Happy, happy, haaaapppppy!”
Believe me — I love being happy. And as a life coach, I want to show you how to be happy, as often as you possibly can.
But in order to create a happier life, you have to own up to the parts of yourself that aren’t so pretty and face the inner mean girl, without running away screaming.
Feeling disappointed with yourself, feeling rejected, feeling ashamed … all of those negative emotions are “teachers,” in one way or another.
You don’t need to wallow in those emotions forever, but you need to be able to plant your butt in the classroom long enough to learn the lessons that they’re here to teach.
Stay there, for a few breaths, days or weeks — however long it takes — and learn. Even if it’s uncomfortable. In the long run? It’ll do you good.
Take my teenage son Ryan, for example.
After years of whining about mowing the lawn and refusing to do it on time, his dad finally said, “Fine. You’re fired. Which means no allowance.”
Ryan was shocked. He was annoyed. At dad. And at himself. Without his weekly allowance, he couldn’t pay to go out to the movies or grab a slice of pizza with his friends.
He was suffering.
He had to sit with those negative emotions, and really feel them.
And lo and behold, they taught him a valuable lesson:
“When you don’t show up for work — or complain about it constantly — you get fired.”
If Ryan had run away from those negative feelings without facing them — “Whatever, I’m not mad! I’m happy!” — or if I had tried to protect him from feeling those feelings — “Here, take your allowance anyway! I don’t want you to suffer!” — he wouldn’t have learned the big lesson that he needed to learn.
So, ask yourself:
What’s the emotion that I’m afraid of feeling, most of all? (Guilt? Shame? Anger? Jealousy? Disappointment? Grief?)
If I sat with that emotion, and really felt it, without instantly trying to change it …
what’s the lesson that I might learn?
Suffering is highly educational.
Don’t skip the lessons you need most.