Let’s face it, sometimes you feel horrible. You feel like the universe is conspiring against you. It could be caused by an upsetting event, such as the end of a relationship or the loss of a job. Other times the feelings are elusive and unexplainable, thus attributed to the alignment of the stars or a chemical imbalance. All you want is to feel better.
Friends and coworkers may tell you to snap out of it, or find a meaningful project. As well meaninged as this advice may be, it can have a tremendous impact on your ability to effectively move forward.
Think about it. If you are angry and focus your attention elsewhere, do the feelings really go away? No. You are simply diverting your attention temporarily to avoid the experience. Even if you are not focused on the upset in the moment, you can rest assured it is still there. And it will be until you deal with the underlying issue.
Most people combat undesirable feelings by consciously or subconsciously creating a goal to feel better. However, consider the old adage, “The more you try to change things, the more they stay the same.” Trying to feel better will most often be a futile attempt.
I believe in living in the present. Although you may have to embrace something that you don’t really want, the more you deal with the now, the better the future. In college, there were moments when I would feel a little melancholy—it was typically due to women problems. Women were more important than grades. I didn't do particularly well with either. For these occasions of sadness, I made this mix tape, aptly titled “The Depression Tape.”
When I felt down in the dumps, I would put that tape in the stereo, open a bottle of wine, turn off the lights, and allow myself to experience my sadness. Eventually I would fall asleep. When I awoke the next morning, I felt like a new man. The experience was very cathartic.
I have since learned to turn this approach into something a bit more, um, healthy. I have replaced the wine with journaling (better for my liver) and substituted the wallowing with a healthy dose of embracing the pain.
So, the next time you feel a negative emotion—misery, anger, sadness—embrace the feeling. Amplify the feeling. Give yourself permission to feel as sad as you have ever felt for a specified period of time. By letting your emotions be just as they are, they miraculously disappear.
This is also effective when working with others. If a coworker is upset with you, being steadfast about changing their feelings or justifying your position will only make matters worse. Instead acknowledge their anger and don’t try to change it. In fact, give them permission to be even angrier. Tell them, “Your anger is justified. And I give you full permission to be upset.” It sounds silly but allowing them to just feel what they are feeling will allow them to move through it more quickly.
Being present means being present to everything—the good, the bad, and the ugly. Positive thinking has its place, but your feelings are just not always positive. So, instead of diverting your attention to a more favorable view, allow yourself to experience those negative emotions. Focus on how you really feel. If you feel pain, embrace the pain. You might just find that it passes quicker than you would ever imagine.