I love the idea that we get to choose our results. Sometimes, in moments of…
Wait. No. NOPE.
It’s February in Ottawa and we are in the middle of a pandemic. It’s bitterly cold. My kids have been home for the last decade (it feels that way, I swear). Dude, I love them more than there are drops of water in the ocean, but we need some space. And to be honest, it kinda feels like this sometimes:
Phew. I feel a little better now.
For most of my life, when things were crummy, I would put on a brave face and deal with it. I tried to be positive and be grateful because surely someone else had it worse than me. This mentality got me through some pretty big stuff. Then every so often, I would have a complete mental and emotional breakdown. It affected my personal relationships. It affected my professional relationships. It affected ME.
I’m one of those people that loves motivational quotes. One thing that I love about myself is that I’m weird and feel comfortable going against the grain. I don’t gravitate to all the trendy things. I’ve never watched Bridgerton but I will “live, laugh, and love” while I “dance like nobody is watching” and if you try and stop me, I will fight you.
About three and a half years ago, I was in the midst of some pretty heavy stuff when I found myself sitting down in front of a therapist for the first time. I remember telling her, with pride, how I love motivational quotes and positive affirmations to lift my spirits. She looked at me and said “how’s that working for you?”.
I mean…it wasn’t. I was clearly sitting in her big cozy therapy chair, filled with anguish and despair and a phone full of “keep calm and carry ons”.
She said “You have good reason to feel the hurt and sadness that you are feeling. So feel it.”
I felt weird about this. It seemed really negative and dreary. How is this helpful at all? I’m here so you can teach me how to better deal with all the feels. Now you’re telling me to be cool with them? No! They’re holding me back and ruining everything! I’ve been feeling them the whole time! That’s why I’m here! UGH. A few days later, guess what I came across? A quote.
But hear me out. It was relevant. It was also a little sweary, but relevant:
“It is ok to lose your sh*t sometimes because if you keep your sh*t, you’ll end up full of sh*t and then you’ll explode and there’ll be sh*t everywhere. A sh*t storm. And nobody wants that.”
Okay, THIS I can work with!!
When you give yourself permission to really feel your not-so-great emotions, it makes space for the really good ones to exist.
Many of us grew up in a world where when you got upset about something, the response was often “it’s okay!” or “don’t be sad!”. Most of us still do it. It’s ingrained in us. So, I really had to dig deep and get vulnerable about why it was so hard for me to feel these feels. In time, I heard the words “lean in”. Probably in a quote (I have a problem, okay).
Sadness, anger, fear, anxiety, despair are really hard things to feel because they’re messy. Sometimes they reveal things we aren’t ready for. Maybe we broke a promise to someone.
Maybe we failed an exam. Maybe we feel like being sad might make us look weak. This is especially true for those of us in positions with big responsibilities: managers, parents, older siblings, care providers, experts, leaders in any capacity.
Maybe the things we feel sad or angry about are related to something really personal and private (like our bodies). Maybe we don’t have a solution for this thing that’s bringing us down. Maybe we do have a solution but we aren’t quite ready to face it. Maybe we were vulnerable in the past and when we tried to talk to someone about it, they weren’t a good listener. Maybe they offered solutions or criticism instead of validation and a hug.
Maybe Maybe Maybe Maybe.
If you’re sad, be sad. Like, really lean into it and be sad. Cry about it. Talk about it. Write about it. Read about it. Soak in it. It’s going to be messy and it’s going to be hard, but it needs to happen and it will. In my experience, it’s way easier to do this sooner rather than later (re: sh*t storm).
Make a toolbox for these feels and make note of tools that work really well and ones that suck. If talking to your friend at work about your feels leaves you feeling frustrated, don’t do that! Maybe writing down your feels is a better option for you.
I’m going to say it again: when you give yourself permission to really feel your not-so-great-emotions, it makes space for the really good ones to exist.
In the event that you do not have good tools to work with and you need additional support, talking to someone like David Gilbert, our Integrative Therapist is a great place to start (give us a call at Whole Therapy for more info).
Locally, in Ottawa and Canada, we have some great mental health resources available to us that can be found here: