A friend of mine recently posed this question on Facebook: As humans, what is our obsession with negativity and pain?
That question really struck a chord with me, so I had to sit with it to see what the “big picture” answer was. I thought the answer was rather fascinating…
One way to define an obsession is this: The habitual focus on aspects of our lives we prefer not to experience.
Using that definition makes the rest of this conversation easier. I say that because emotional and physical pain are a natural part of our human experience, but they’re not a part of our everyday experience. Anything that is an exception to our daily experience automatically draws our attention; precisely because it is an exception.
If you allow yourself to sit with that thought without judgment, you will eventually find that it resonates on a deeply emotional level. The default setting for every human being is one of contentment and joy. Give yourself permission to simply observe your feelings – without attaching any meaning to what you observe – and you will discover just how much joy is a part your life.
Your human side may be tempted to think that negativity and pain are the rule, and that joy is the exception, but the opposite is true. The focus on negativity and pain is a learned trait, not a natural one. If you need an example, observe young children. Pay close attention and you will see that through their eyes, this world is a fascinating place; one filled with wonder and discovery. Everything is processed through the lens of excitement and adventure.
When properly guided, children quickly learn what can be physically harmful. However, most humans fail to teach their offspring about what is emotionally harmful. There are very few cultural structures that teach humans how to maintain their emotional awareness, and the few that do exist can be overwhelmed by family dynamics that pass down emotional dysfunction through countless generations.
As stated earlier, negativity and pain are a periodic exceptions to an otherwise happy or joyful life. Human beings prefer not to experience negativity and pain, but who wouldn’t? From a strictly human point of view, those experiences suck big time, and yet they are an inevitable part of the human adventure. Why? Because they help us recognize when we are in our natural state of contentment and joy.
So, rather than resisting negative emotions, embrace them. Resistance is what leads to obsession (the habitual focus on aspects of your life you’d rather not experience). The more you resist something, the more you focus on it. Therefore, allow yourself to experience the very emotions you’d rather not feel. You’ll discover that those emotions will flow through you easily and they will go away on their own.
Here is one last thought to consider: The obsession with negativity and pain is more perception than reality, but as humans sometimes say, “My perception is my reality.”
What a wonderful statement, because therein lies your answer.
Ask yourself, “What do I choose to perceive? Where is my focus? Am I resisting negative emotions, or am I allowing myself to feel them?” Your honest answers will guide you and help you release whatever obsessions you have.
In conclusion, I would simply remind you of the Fourth Tenet of Joy: Every emotion you feel is an aspect of Joy. Allow all of your emotions to flow, you will live a joyous life.
About the Author
Appio Hunter is an author, speaker, spiritual guide, and self-described champion for living joyously. He is best known for his work facilitating conversations about the aspects of joyous living with groups around the world.
Appio is driven by a passion to show people how they can be authentic and experience community, connection, and alignment every day by applying the Tenets of Joy to their lives. He is also co-host of the Real Men Feel podcast along with his good friend Andy Grant.