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Feel The Pain

Feel the pain

By Danielle Moran

I’m a happy person. And if I’m having a bad day, I’m a happy person having a not so happy day. For me, learning to be happy was one of the most difficult, yet simple of things for me to grasp. Listen, one of the most important roles and responsibilities in my life is being a mother. I believe I am responsible for the happiness of my children (for now). As they grow and learn, I slowly hand over that responsibility to them. They are learning every day how to be happy – even when things don’t go their way. We all must learn how to be happy. Sometimes we still are.

I personally define happiness as pure contentment with life – even though some days are harder than others. Even if there’s more month than there is paycheck. Even if this morning’s coffee spilled all over your new shirt. Even if you’re dealing with the most difficult person on planet Earth. Happiness is enjoying the good in life, even though the bad exists. Happiness is feeling pain and choosing growth. Sometimes happiness looks complicated, especially to those looking from the outside in. 

What happiness isn’t? It isn’t suppressing or avoiding negative emotions. Negative emotions are important tools that human beings use to get our most critical needs met. Think about a sweet newborn baby girl. When she’s hungry, she cries. When she’s cold, she cries. When she’s feeling pain, she cries. When she’s in need of comfort, she cries. From birth, it is ingrained in our brain to first experience a negative emotion, so that we can then make a choice to meet that need. It’s obvious that babies and children still need help in getting their needs met and figuring out what choice to make. Maybe it’s not so obvious, though, that sometimes adults need help too.

If you’re experiencing more negative emotions than positive ones, it sounds like some of your most critical needs aren’t being met. The good news is that if you didn’t know this before, now you do. That’s the job of these negative emotions – to let you know that something needs to change. There is a critical need that should be met. Now, you make a choice. And hopefully, this choice leads to growth. Hopefully, this choice leads to the possibility for more positive emotions. Hopefully, this choice leads to enjoying the good, despite the bad. If this seems overwhelming or like an impossibility, there is absolutely no shame in asking for help. Turn to a friend. Call up a family member. Make an appointment with a professional. Reaching out to anyone is the first step in building your support system – an essential part in achieving and maintaining happiness. 

If we want an indicator that something needs to change in our life, we must feel these unpleasant feelings. When someone shows up to work and immediately thinks, “I hate coming to this job.” The immediate response shouldn’t be to shove down that negative emotion and try to replace it with a positive one. That’s what toxic positivity looks like. Telling yourself to “suck it up because at least I have a job” is destructive and just leads to more unpleasant feelings and more negative emotions. Instead, feel the negative emotion. Feel the sorrow. Feel the pain. Feel the suffering. And now, make a change. Are you going to find a new job? Are you going to implement something at work to make it less unbearable? Maybe going out for lunch? Maybe going to a yoga class over your break? Maybe you’re going to talk to a colleague or a superior about your feelings of contempt.

Remember – happiness is not just suppressing or avoiding negative emotions. Feel the negative emotion and make a choice that leads to change and growth.