The Good Thing About Feeling Bad
Have you ever noticed that certain negative feelings cycle through periodically? I used to be really good at deflecting them. Like so many of us, I believed that their discomfort was something to be avoided at all costs and that doing so was the only way to experience happiness, love, and belonging. If I couldn’t avoid them, I would analyze and dig deep with self-reflective questions to find the source of those feelings and ultimately eradicate the problem. While introspection is great, the concept of trying to “fix it" is actually counterproductive.
Firstly, uncomfortable feelings are part of the human experience.
When we push away a feeling and make it “bad” or “wrong”, we’re shaming ourselves when we need compassion most. Doing so just exacerbates the experience and creates unnecessary suffering.
When a child is upset, you don’t scold them for having those feelings. You try to nurture them and let them know it will all be ok. In the same respect, practice awareness around how you talk to yourself. That all-too-common critical voice is a form of self-rejection and another example of not being present for ourselves.
The truth is there’s no fixing to be done. Feelings are meant to be felt and released. Like any sensation in the body, they arise and pass away. It’s the meaning we ascribe to them that typically makes them more unpleasant than they need to be. When we accept that unpleasant feelings are natural, we can move through them more quickly and easily. By pushing them down or deflecting, they keep popping back up, potentially causing blocks or manifesting as unproductive and self-sabotaging projections that don’t align with who we really are.
Secondly, uncomfortable feelings always have something valuable to teach us.
When we’re present, they have valuable information for us (e.g., the need to set a new boundary). The way we discover the lesson isn’t by analyzing, but by simply being with the feelings as they are, receiving the information they provide, and allowing them to pass. This act of holding space and being fully present allows us to not only move through the feelings but typically delivers the profound insight we need to grow. It’s only in stillness that we can hear those insights. If we’re deflecting or overthinking, we miss that lesson.
I’ve come to realize that in my desire to get rid of these feelings, I’ve avoided my own truth, haven’t been present with myself, and consequently lost some authenticity in my relationships. If I can’t be with myself, neither can anyone else. That’s the funny thing about presence. We need to be present to share authentically.
If we can compassionately witness those experiences, we’ll find that they have guidance and wisdom in them. They have a story to tell us about how we are shaping our reality in ways that aren’t working for us. When I receive their input from this perspective, I don’t feel victimized by the negative feelings. I feel informed that something isn’t working and empowered to discover what it is and change it.
So, I no longer get angry or feel helpless when sadness, despair, or apathy come to visit. I do my best to acknowledge their arrival and listen. The questions come from an intention of discovering the truth as opposed to fixing a perceived problem.
“What is my body telling me?”
“What do I need?”
“What do I need to tend to or heal?”
I can’t say that these conversations are easy, but usually, they are very fruitful. Instead of dismissing or invalidating the uncomfortable feelings, try shifting the context from “fixing it” to being present and seeing them as a gift. If you can really stand in that space of not making yourself or your feelings wrong — and even welcoming them — there’s an opening for true presence and creation. Being present with yourself is a powerful act of self-love.