What???? Did I just say that? “Happio,” the Shiny Squirrel, the Emotion Emancipator, the Happiness Champion, thinks that staying positive is a pain in the ass?
However, I’d like to qualify my statement. It’s 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. No… I haven’t lost my mind. Think about it. As crazy as it sounds, we know, deep down, that letting ourselves feel bad is actually a healthy expression of our emotional well-being. 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.” Why? Because we instinctively know that 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’ve become very aware of a trend in popular thinking. There are folks in the world – some associated with the New Age movement – who would have you believe that the only way we’re “supposed” to feel is good. Really? Who came up with that rule? That smells like bullshit to me.
Mind you, as an openly practicing empath who uses my gift to help others get in touch with (and understand) their own emotions, I fall squarely into the New Age definition of an energy worker. At the same time, I’m fully aware of the incredible diversity of thought, language, culture, etc. that surrounds me. I’m not afraid of using spiritual language, but I’m also fond of keeping myself grounded. Therefore, when I teach a class or I speak to an audience, I speak to EVERYONE, not just those who buy into the more ethereal aspects of emotional wellness.
I see the New Age movement as being similar to other major philosophies, religions, or lifestyles; it brings joy to many people, but it has also its small but vocal group of adherents who are… shall we say… extremely passionate in their beliefs. These passionate believers are adamant that we MUST be positive and upbeat all the time. The result is that meditation, yoga, veganism, and zero-waste lifestyles (to name a few) sometimes get portrayed as “fringe” ideas because the most passionate followers say and do things that don’t always align with societal “norms.” Just as passionate religious believers are vilified by some segments of our society, the passionate New Agers also get a bad rap.
I personally don’t believe that anyone deserves to be ridiculed (or 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. My friend Sean Patrick (That Guy Who Loves the Universe) summed it up perfectly last month when we were in Key West attending Possibilities in Paradise. One night, while chatting, he shared a quote that really struck a chord with me: “There’s no such bullshit as New Age bullshit.” Yup.
So why am I on this rant? Because I think it’s really important for us to be aware that there are no “should’s” in this universe. Lifestyles, philosophies, and spirituality are deeply personal choices, so 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 bullshit in my opinion. How we feel is how we feel. Period.
It pains me to see so many people holding themselves to ridiculous standards of perfection. I’m not talking about physical perfection (plenty of other people talk about that). I’m talking about ridiculous standards of emotional perfection. Buzzwords like enlightenment and mindfulness and awareness get thrown about by people who jump onto every trendy idea that grabs the popular imagination. It’s true that we’re all on a quest to feel better, but to judge our feelings while we’re on our way to that 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 been saying, there are times when feeling bad actually feels good. I know I’ve said this many times, but the importance of this principle can’t be overemphasized. The natural state of our emotions is flowing. Preventing ourselves from feeling what we naturally want to feel in any given moment effectively raises a barrier that dams 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 pressure. We may become short-tempered or stop caring about things we normally care about. Long term, the symptoms of emotional blockage start to take physical form, 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 “need” 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. So when you get stuck on the thought that keeps the anger or sadness alive, you’re effectively raising another barrier that stops the flow of your thoughts AND emotions. Let ‘em flow and let ‘em go.
Unicorns, fairies, and pixie dust are great, but when they’re used to assign “good” or “bad” labels to what we feel, barriers go up. Would it shock you if I were to state that there are no GOOD or BAD emotions? The way I see it, every emotion serves a purpose. If viewed from that perspective, we can easily accept that ALL emotions are good. Our emotions guide us and tell us if we’re doing things that make us happy. 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, which means that you can change direction. It’s never too late to change direction.
Okay, okay, I realize that to some people I just spewed some New Age bullshit, but I’m speaking from personal experience and LOTS of observation. Isn’t what scientists do? Don’t they observe, measure, and draw conclusions from their observations? That’s exactly what I’m doing, but I’ll also be the first to tell you not to believe a word I say. Instead, take what I say and put it to the test. If my ideas work for you, fantastic! Welcome to a life of Passion, Joy, and Fun! If not, then ignore me and move on. I’m neither right nor wrong. I just know what has worked for me and for many, many others.
So please, please, please do yourself a favor and honor your feelings and your thoughts. Be a conscious feeler and a conscious thinker. If something doesn’t sit well with you, ignore it and move on. Know that feeling good all the time isn’t a requirement, and remember that even the “masters” have their human moments – even if they don’t publicize them. Let your thoughts and emotions flow where they want to go and trust your feelings. 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 bullshit.
About the Author
Appio Hunter is an author, speaker, spiritual guide, and self-described champion for living joyously. He uses his seminars and workshops to facilitate conversations about authenticity, alignment, and the daily 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.