“And in my hour of darkness
She is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom
Let it be.”
We humans are bizarre creatures. We embrace duality: we want certainty but also opportunities, to be individual but also part of a tribe, live in the moment but prepare for the future. But above all, we want to control things, including our future and other things that we, in fact, cannot control. An obsession for control originates from our insecurities or fear of what will happen if we lose our grip on the situation:
Will I be abandoned or left?
Will I get hurt?
I value this thing, will I lose it?
We want to control everything because we are afraid of the unknown. Most people fear change and prefer to keep their habitual way of life. That, unfortunately, is not possible. Life will always come into play, and there is nothing we can do about it. Nassim Taleb’s Black Swans — unpredictable events — will happen, and there is no way to see them coming.
Human beings have a fundamental longing for assurance and influence over their surroundings. This urge fulfills at least two crucial functions. Firstly, it allows us to maintain the belief that we can influence and shape the outcomes and circumstances of our life according to our preferences. Secondly, the feeling of being in control generates a sense of satisfaction since it assures us that we are not at the mercy of external forces.
Despite how hard you will try to control your life, unpleasant experiences will happen. You might get upset or even hurt. That’s’ life. What many people do when they experience negative emotions is fight them. The perfectionist inside us tells us we are not allowed to feel bad. Thus, we fight with our emotions, trying hard to give positive affirmations or shoving a pencil between our teeth to force a smile. However, the emotions don’t go away; they just get stored inside us. The amount of energy that we spend trying to neglect negativity is enormous. Denial is not an option. It is much better to let yourself feel what you feel. Let it be.
You have a right to experience emotions. Does that sound trivial? Many people think they are not allowed to feel jealousy, rage, or any other emotions from the negative spectrum. That is not right. You are a human, not a machine, and that means you feel. Emotions form a big part of our life. That is what makes us remember things and feel alive. Everyone will sometimes have circumstances that will produce negative feelings. It is important not to hide or repress these emotions but to let them manifest in non-destructive ways.
You have the right to experience a full range of emotions. What you then do with these emotions is your choice.
There are no bad or good emotions. Unfortunately, not every parent knows we shouldn’t restrict children’s emotional expression. How many boys have been told that “boys don’t cry”? How many parents have told their children to “not take it so personally, it is not important”? If it got us upset, it is important to us. Parents’ unwillingness to discuss or support us teaches us that our emotions are unimportant, and we learn to suppress them.
You have the right to experience a full range of emotions. What you then do with these emotions is your choice. No one has the right to forbid you to be happy or sad, angry or afraid, annoyed or waiting for miracles.
Being publicly angry is not appropriate in society. However, don’t let anger store in you. It will lead, in the end, to dissatisfaction and illness. It’s better to let it go. Not inside, but outside. You can push yourself to run, hike a mountain, swim or scream to the sea. If you don’t let it go, chances are it will be reborn as passive-aggressive behavior.
Try to name the emotions you experience inside your head. If you feel anger, just naming it will be already helpful because you will manage to distinguish yourself from it. Do the same with all negative emotions: fear, anger, sadness, disgust, shame. Try to find your unique way to work with anger or frustration. Perhaps you’re angry with yourself, but it’s just a feeling; it is not you. You have thoughts and feelings, but they are not you. You are not only your emotions.
Remember, it’s great that you experience emotions and are not apathetic. A lack of emotions or apathy means that something is not right. Often, it means a person experienced such pain that they closed off emotionally. A human being with a healthy personality experiences a wide range of emotions. A well-functioning human being knows how to act despite those emotions.
Coping with emotions is only one of the topics discussed in the Good Life Engine course. Sign up for the course now to become your best self.