If you’re into personal development or metaphysical thought, you’ve probably come across this unspoken expectation about how we’re “supposed” to feel.
Staying positive all the time can be a real pain in the ass.
Wait a sec… how can a guy who writes and speaks about emotional intelligence possibly say that saying positive is a pain in the ass? Doesn’t that go against the whole idea of emotional intelligence?
No. At least, not from my point of view.
Before I go on, let me qualify: Being positive all the time is a pain the ass sometimes.
Let’s be honest with each other—there are times when, as human beings, we feel lousy and we just don’t want to feel good. We’re actually happier feeling bad than feeling good.
Think about it. As crazy as it sounds, we just know, deep down, that letting ourselves feel bad is actually a healthy expression of our emotional well-being. People with a high EQ get that. They know that being human means we’re going to have our moments when we need to feel angry, or upset, or sad, or any other emotion we’ve been conditioned to think of as “negative.”
Let me put it this way: If we try to force ourselves to feel good when we don’t want to, we’re going to end up feeling worse in the long run.
I say all this because I’m periodically reminded that some people would have you believe that the only way we’re “supposed” to feel is good.
Really? Who came up with that rule?
I should mention that I’m someone who is very much at home in the metaphysical community because there are many ideas that resonate with how I think. I’m not afraid of using spiritual language, but I also like to keep myself grounded. Therefore, whenever I speak to a group, I speak to EVERYONE, not just those who buy into the more ethereal aspects of emotional wellness.
I see metaphysical thought as both a philosophy and a way of life—like a religion, almost—and just like many philosophies, there can be a small but vocal group of adherents who are… shall we say… extremely passionate in their beliefs.
One of those passionate beliefs is that we MUST be positive and upbeat all the time. I personally don’t believe that anyone deserves to be vilified, but when it comes down to how we’re “supposed” to feel, there are times when I have to agree with New Age detractors. If you’re feeling pissed off and you WANT to feel pissed off, you can only pray, meditate, and say om so much before you want to hurl.
A good friend of mine once shared a quote that really struck a chord with me: “There’s no such bullshit as New Age bullshit.”
As loathe as I am to agree… I agree.
Mind you, I’m on this rant because I think it’s really important for us to be aware that there are no “should’s” in life. The beliefs we adopt and their associated lifestyles are deeply personal choices. What works for one person may not work for someone else. This idea that there’s only one “true” or “correct” way to feel is total BS in my opinion. How we feel is how we feel. Period.
I’m pained to see so many people holding themselves to ridiculous standards of perfection… and that’s especially true when I think of the ridiculous standards of emotional perfection we impose on ourselves.
Buzzwords like enlightenment and mindfulness and awareness get thrown around a lot. It’s true that when life stinks we all want to feel better, but to judge our feelings while we’re on our way to a better feeling place serves no purpose. Beating ourselves up doesn’t make us more mindful, it only keeps us stuck where we are.
As I’ve said, there are times when feeling bad actually feels good. A Tenet of Joyous Living is that every emotion we feel is an aspect of Joy. When we allow all of our emotions to flow, it’s possible to live a joyous life.
Preventing ourselves from feeling what we naturally want to feel in any given moment effectively raises a barrier that stops the flow of our emotions. When we judge our feelings, and tell ourselves that we “should” feel differently, the impact of our judgment shows up almost immediately—usually in the form of emotional distress.
In the short term, we may become ill-tempered or stop caring about things we normally care about. Long term, the symptoms of emotional distress start to take physical form, ranging from migraines and aching muscles, to substance abuse or other self-destructive behaviors.
My whole point is that if we buy into the idea that we “should” to feel good all the time, we’re not doing ourselves any favors. If you’re angry and you want to feel angry, then let yourself feel angry. If you feel sad and you don’t want to feel happy, then feel sad.
The only thing I would say to be “mindful” of is to not let the thought that made you angry or sad get stuck in your head. Our thoughts are intricately tied to our emotions, and thoughts, like emotions, are meant to flow. When we get stuck on a thought that keeps a particular emotion alive, we’re effectively raising another barrier that stops the flow of our thoughts AND emotions.
Wanna get unstuck? Let ‘em flow and let ‘em go.
Would it shock you to learn that there are no GOOD or BAD emotions? Good and bad are labels. The way I see it, every emotion serves a purpose. Viewed from that perspective, we can more easily accept that all emotions are good. Our emotions guide us and tell us if we’re aligned with the path that makes the most sense for us.
If you feel angry, frustrated, or depressed, be grateful! Know that what you feel is an indicator that you’re not on the path you really want to travel… and that means you can change direction. It’s never too late to change direction.
Okay, okay, I realize that I may have sounded like I was spewing some New Age BS, but I’m speaking from personal experience and LOTS of observation. Having said that, I’ll also be the first to tell you that you don’t have believe a word I say. Take what I said and put it to the test. If these ideas work for you, great! If not, then toss ‘em and move on.
However… do yourself a favor and always honor your feelings and your thoughts. Become emotionally intelligent and train yourself to be a deliberate thinker. If an idea doesn’t sit well with you, ignore it and move on. Remember that staying positive all the time isn’t a requirement, and remember that the “enlightened” ones among us also have their human moments—even if they don’t publicize them. Let your emotions flow and trust that no matter what, you’ll always end up in a good-feeling place.
Above all, don’t let anyone —including me—tell you how you should or should not feel. That decision is entirely yours.
Otherwise, it’s just BS.
About the Author
Appio Hunter is an author, speaker, spiritual guide, and a guy dedicated to raising our collective EQ. He uses his seminars and workshops to facilitate conversations about authenticity, alignment, awareness, and the experience of community, connection, and joy. Appio is also a weekly columnist with The Good Men Project and co-host of the Real Men Feel Show along with his good friend Andy Grant.