I believe feeling the pain is the first and most important step on the journey to achieving Happiness. If we don’t allow ourselves to feel the pain, any other Happiness practices are just papering over the cracks.
I’ve experienced depression on and off for nearly 30 years. Every time I think I’ve finally conquered it, it rears its ugly head again. Despite practicing my Happiness Tips, I recently experienced a relapse of depression for a few weeks, following my birthday. Just a week or two before I had commented to my boyfriend, Mr Sexy Pants (MSP) how happy I was feeling and that it was possibly the happiest I’d ever been.
I think a few things triggered the depression including over-indulging on cake and wine on my birthday, a return to the office, the horrible state of the world, especially the George Floyd situation and subsequent unrest and much more.
This period of depression highlighted to me the need, now more than ever, to remind ourselves that it’s okay not to be okay and allow ourselves to feel the pain. I know we’ve covered this in previous posts, such It’s Okay not to be Okay and Coming off the Meds (Again) but I feel we need to revisit it. I believe this is probably the most important Happiness tip of all. It’s also probably the one thing we don’t want to face or acknowledge. We want to cover our feelings with affirmations, gratitude, meditation and other Happiness techniques but I’m starting to believe that those techniques will not fully work until we have laid the foundation of allowing ourselves to feel the pain.
In this post I outline three ways that we can embrace the pain and fully feel it.
Allow yourself to feel the pain
In my experience, one of the best ways to deal with painful emotions, is to allow ourselves to fully feel them. While it helps to feel the pain, at the same time it’s important not to dwell on it. As I mentioned in my Focus on the Good blog post, “Feel it, really feel it. But don’t dwell on it. Don’t get out a sleeping bag and tent and set up camp there. Feel it in your whole body and then let it go”. Feel it but don’t spend too much time thinking about it.
Allowing ourselves to feel the pain is an important part of the healing process when we feel low, depressed or even when we’re grieving. It’s often fighting the pain that causes the most problems. What we resist persists, as I learnt when I did my Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) practitioner training.
When I feel emotional pain, I find it’s helpful to close my eyes and fully immerse myself in it. It’s good to notice whereabouts in my body I can feel it. I often find the more I allow myself to focus on the pain, rather than resisting it, the pain becomes difficult to grasp. Much like it would be trying to grab hold of a cloud.
While feeling the pain can be a very powerful technique, it doesn’t always work immediately, as I found in my recent episode of depression. Sometimes we are not ready to deal with the pain, these methods don’t immediately work or can seem overwhelming. In which case, there are three other things I recommend which I’ll cover in a later post.
Don’t beat yourself up
If you’re a regular reader or follower, you’ll know that I have a habit of beating myself up when I experience depression. I feel that as an ambassador for Happiness I should be walking the talk. I feel like a hypocrite when I don’t feel happy at least 70% of the time.
My friends and followers often reassure me that they feel I’m the perfect person to be helping others as I am living my experience. I am real. I am authentic. People tell me they can relate to that. I was starting to believe that for myself when I was hit with this latest bout of crippling depression. Usually when I have a period of feeling low it passes within a day or two and normal service can resume. This time it lasted for a few weeks, which, once again, lead me to questioning my ability to help others. “It’s all very well feeling low for a day or two,” I said to myself, “but this prolonged low mood is unacceptable”.
I sometimes feel that I’m not happy enough or spiritual enough, otherwise I wouldn’t feel like this. I was comforted by a video from Abraham Hicks, which helped me look at it from a new perspective. They suggested the opposite in fact. In the video they propose that the higher our vibration, or the better we’re feeling, the harder it is when we lose that momentum. They use the metaphor of a car crashing into a tree or wall. If a car crashes into a tree at 5 mph it will feel a lot different than if it crashes at 70 mph.
I also find that comments from well-meaning friends can lead to further self-doubt. Friends often say, “What you have you got to feel down about? You have a great boyfriend, a good job, a nice home”, I gently reply that “mental health doesn’t work like that”. I find that if people have never experienced mental health issues or depression, and sometimes even if they have, they find it very difficult to understand.
Look for the lesson
From what I’ve seen there’s always a lesson; a silver-lining. A blessing in disguise. When I was in 12-step programmes one of my sponsors used to call them “crap-wrapped miracles”. We can ask ourselves what we need to learn from this experience. How can we use what we’ve learned to help ourselves and others?
As a result of my recent bout of depression, and also the coronavirus crisis, I have learnt to stop striving. Instead I am really enjoying my life as it is now. I am very lucky. I have an amazing boyfriend, a great job, wonderful friends and I live in a lovely house. We live in the beautiful county of Suffolk and we regularly go on holiday. I have a good life. I realised that I want to slow down and enjoy it.
It has also increased my passion to let the world know that it’s okay not to be okay and help others learn from my experiences.
What is your experience of coping with difficult emotions? How do you deal with feeling the pain? Let me know in the comments.
Thank you for reading my post. I hope you found it useful. If you enjoy my blog posts, you may enjoy my free guide – 4 keys to Happiness during social isolation. Also, if you appreciate reading my posts and feel guided to do so, please share them with others and / or make a donation.