Human beings feel all sorts of emotions — fear, love, loathing, hate, like, happiness, elation, anger, grief, and many more. It is part of the human condition.
The current mantras are “stop being afraid”, “always have a positive attitude” and “stay positive”. Social media is filled with clever sayings and memes about the “think positive” mind-hive .
Well, sorry folks, I’m here to tell you, unless you are a monk or some ethereal being, it is not human to be positive every minute of every day. Is God positive all the time? Well, if you believe the Bible, no! God was a very angry God sometimes. God was judgmental. God was vengeful. God grieved.
I’m a firm believer in having your time to feel your anger, feel your grief, feel your fear. You can’t wallow in it but not allowing yourself to feel these things I have learned from therapy is damaging.
The author, Maddy Paxman, wrote about the grief she felt after the death of her husband, Michael, in an article in The Telegraph, and how it is not acceptable to show grief, in which she states:
Anyway, try not being strong and see where it gets you. Once, at an ice-rink birthday party for my son’s friend, I sat down on the floor in the corner and sobbed. No one came near me. Diana, Princess of Wales’s funeral notwithstanding, public displays of emotion are still largely a cause for discomfort. We do not know how to witness another’s pain, simply to stand by them as they grieve. So grief and sadness become private, hidden, shameful even. I even found it hard to cry in front of myself.
I have found this to be true even for myself. You get labeled as a “negative” person when you show how you really feel at that moment. You are given anecdotes in which everyone knows someone with three children, whose husband died, and is now dealing with cancer… and the death of a parent… and the loss of a job. And of course, this person is always happy and cheerful. I don’t know how to break it to you but that person – she is just putting one foot in front of the other and often pastes a smile on her face to show to the world. She is not as happy as you think. She isn’t opening her heart and soul to you however.
How do I know? I spent years telling people I was “fine”. I was anything but fine. But I was known as an always upbeat and happy person. It was a lie. It was a lie I told others and I often told myself. And when I wasn’t lying to myself, I was berating myself for having negative emotions. “Why am I sad and anxious? I should be happy. I have so much going for me” was a reoccurring theme in my head.
I talked to my therapist about my grief, for the loss of my dad, for the loss of my cat, for the loss of friendship, for the surgery I had in December, for the loss of the woman I called “grandma”, and she told me that I must allow myself time and permission to feel what I feel. She said it is imperative to not allow anyone to tell me how I should feel and give me a timetable in which to “get over it”.
People want us to be positive all the time because as, Paxman said in her article, anything else makes you uncomfortable. We are human. We don’t like being uncomfortable (another emotion!).
Talking about business, Seth Godin wrote in Linchpin; Are You Indispensable
Discomfort brings engagement and change. Discomfort means you’re doing something that others were unlikely to do, because they’re hiding out in the comfortable zone. When your uncomfortable actions lead to success, the organization rewards you and brings you back for more.
Glennon Doyle Melton wrote about this on her Momastery Blog in 2014, specifically writing about anger and the discomfort people feel when you express anger. She wrote “Forbidding half of the human experience to half of the human race is quite insane and dangerous.”
I know that when friend or family member is uncomfortable with my negative emotions, I stop confiding in them. Then I stop talking to them about anything of any import. Because I don’t trust them with my feelings, honoring all of my feelings, or more to the point, honoring all of me.
We need to honor our friends and family. All of them, in all of their messy glory. I need to honor myself in all of my messy glory. Because we are human.