I am an optimist. I do not wallow in negative feelings. When I am sad, I have a list of things I can do that will typically distract me. When I am angry, I have tools that I have learned to analyze the anger, which typically causes it to dissipate.
Lately I have had sad feelings that don’t go away, and anger that keeps coming back despite my brilliant exercises. I don’t know what to do with these feelings. I am realizing that I have the idea that I should not have these feelings, and I should be very careful
telling my friends about them. After all, people get worn out listening to others whine about the same thing over and over and over. I’m irritating enough when I don’t sound like a broken Yoko Ono record.
A friend gave me a suggestion that has taken some time for me to digest. He said that I can observe the feelings without being swept away by them. I think he meant that I can allow myself to be sad and explore why, but draw the line at acting out in a hurtful way. In other words, to develop a new coping system that doesn’t involve stuffing my feelings or easing my discomfort by hosing half a chocolate cake.
This is new to me. I am allowing myself to feel sadness and loss without guilt. It’s okay. I occasionally mention it to a few friends, but after the first verbal tsunami explaining the situation, then I just let them know that I’m still hurting and that’s about it. I don’t pretend to be fully recovered, but I don’t regurgitate the same story over and over again. When I feel like crying, I go to my room and let it out. There is something really therapeutic about giving myself permission to do that. It doesn’t last long; it seems that the important part was allowing myself to feel the sadness to the point of tears.
Sometimes I have feelings that are genuinely destructive like inadequacy, fear, anger, regret. I am learning to pull back for a moment and look at the facts surrounding those feelings. I realize that a more objective view shows that these feelings are unfounded and therefore unnecessary and even unhelpful.
For example; I was feeling horribly inadequate and fearful because I have been diligently looking for a decent job for nearly 3 months and I have only had one interview so far. When I stop focusing on my fears and look at the facts, I am immediately calmed:
1. When I began my search, my resume was abysmal, I had not adapted to the way people find work now, I had few professional connections and I didn’t know exactly what I was looking for.
2. It took me nearly a month to figure out WHAT I was great at, WHAT sector I wanted to be in, WHAT certification I needed to obtain to prove my competency and with WHOM I needed to connect in order to make that happen.
3. It took me over a month to GET the certification, to CONNECT with people of influence, to LEARN how to work the system and to apply for the right positions with these new assets.
A few weeks after I got that together, I began getting calls back on my emails, phone calls, and applications. It was not instant. It took a great deal of diligence and little bit of patience. My fears and self-loathing were completely unnecessary and self-defeating. By becoming objective about the causes of these negative feelings, I was able to resolve them.
By allowing myself to feel sad, my sadness is now beginning to let up. For the first time, I didn’t stuff it. It’s like the heavy storm that dropped on our valley this week and dumped a foot of snow; it came, it did it’s worst, it broke some tree branches and mucked up the streets… and then it left.
Today the sun is shining through my bedroom window and the streets are clear but damp. I will still need to clean up the fallen branches when the snow melts in the next few days, but there is no rush. This is not the last snow storm I will experience. Sadness is a natural feeling and one that will come and go in my life. I don’t need to fight it or “do” anything about it.
The other feelings need to be dealt with; there is something to “do” about them and I will not be able to move forward in my life without facing them head-on and dismantling them.
Once I allowed myself to feel sad without guilt and took action to correct the causes of my self-destruction, the anger went away on its own.
It takes wisdom to recognize the difference between the feelings I need to embrace and those I need to confront. I am grateful to have people in my life that can share that wisdom with me.
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