Happiness Doesn’t Trump Sadness
Our human body is an amazing piece of equipment. The majority of what we need to survive is performed by our subconscious mind. 24/7 it tells our heart to beat; fills our lungs with oxygen; and pumps blood throughout. Our subconscious mind never rests. In comparison, our logical, thinking mind, is only on the job while we are awake. Our conscious mind is responsible for only 5%[i] of the decisions we make. Is it asleep on the job? It almost appears lazy as it bypasses the critical thinking skills it possesses by embracing the thoughts, beliefs, and behaviours of others without evaluating if they are in our best interest.
We live our present lives dictated by what we have observed, experienced or heard without ever hitting the pause button and evaluating why we do the things we do. The same is true for our emotions and how we process them. Have you ever noticed we are taught to express happy emotions differently than sad emotions? We are encouraged to share happy experiences and yet we are told to hide or bury the sad ones. Is this healthy or should we encourage our conscious mind to step up and do its job? Is it possible to recognize, process, and share both emotions equally?
Let us consider two separate examples: A young child has had an amazing experience at school. Their presentation was more successful than imagined. The class and the teacher gave them rave reviews. Our natural response is to share in their joy; to celebrate their win. We would never dream of telling them that the sharing of this good news wasn’t appropriate; or that it left us feeling uncomfortable and to please keep this good news to themselves. We wouldn’t do this!
What if that same child were to come home having experienced the opposite reaction to their school presentation. We most likely would rush into the conversation looking for a way to fix the situation or help our child feel better. To minimize their feelings, perhaps to replace the negative emotions, we may offer a cookie or a trip to the ice cream store. As parents, we often lack the proper tools to support our children when they experience a negative emotional experience. In order to make ourselves feel better, to help them feel better, we teach our children how to suppress their loss. We teach them what we ourselves were taught.
These lessons are carried into adulthood, where, after a lifetime of suppressing our sadness and anger, we reach a breaking point. Much like a steam kettle, with a cork in its spout, with no possible way for the emotional pressure to be released, we may react inappropriately. Perhaps in small ways such as a wall kick or a raised voice. Left unresolved, over time, the need to release these pent up emotional energies can lead to much greater and more harmful reactions. Just like the steam, the energy must go somewhere.
We need to change this in our society. We need to make it acceptable to share our sad emotions along with our happy ones. We need to stop feeling uncomfortable when someone isn’t happy and learn how to provide a safe place where they can feel heard. As the listener we do not need to make things better; we need only be a heart with ears.
Expressing our emotions is healthy; It is natural. Grief is a normal and natural reaction. Our bodies once knew how to process these emotions and release them. Most of us have been taught to do otherwise and as a result, we have turned our bodies into storage facilities. Like any piece of equipment which is not used properly it begins to breakdown.
It is important to understand our feelings were meant to pass through our bodies as they are released back into the atmosphere. This is normal. We need to take the time to review what we have been taught, to adjust our expression to include all emotions, and to feel comfortable not only expressing them but receiving them. By telling the truth, about how we are feeling, these emotions are allowed to leave our body before the pressure surrounding those emotions builds into something unmanageable. It is time to teach our conscious mind not only does it have a job to do, but that job is very important to our mental and physical health. It needs to review how and why we are reacting and adjust accordingly.
Our bodies were designed to process all emotions. Choosing which ones, we are or are not willing to express, puts us in a compromised position. It is time for our conscious mind to step up to the plate.
Tammy Adams, Certified Coach Practitioner offering support, in-person or online, Canada-wide. She is certified in The Grief Recovery Method®, Personality Dimensions™, Reiki, Access Bars®, and Mindfulness. To learn more about the services she offers, book a 20-minute free phone consult, or visit her service tab on her website at www.tadams.ca