When we feel down, we look down. Our shoulders sag, our field of view is limited to the floor. We have no sense of vision. We see no horizon –no future.
Of course, we do have a future. And it can contain as much happiness as we manage to create within the moments that make up that future. But we cannot be motivated by that future if we can’t even see it. And to see it, we must choose to look up.
Feeling down is a very sensible feeling. Life has ebbs and flows, like everything else in nature. Our job is not to constantly rise on some scale of life. No one is judging us. We’re not in a competition. This is a mass cooperation.
Our negative feelings are not us failing, they are just signals that we are looking down rather than up. Maybe our version of ‘down’ sounds like, “I’ll always be alone.” Maybe it sounds like, “I’ll never recover from this financially.” Or maybe it’s even, “My life is ruined.”
Those things may even be true in any given moment, but the problem is with using words like “always,” “never,” or “my life.” Those words represent a kind of permanence, when that is not how our emotions flow.
Even sad people at funerals can laugh at something funny. Even someone who’s lost everything can be grateful to those who offer shelter. And even the luckiest person in the world will have many sad and bad days. Each new moment is a new opportunity for a different feeling.
The most important thing to remember is, no matter what we may feel our overriding definition for our life may be, that definition will still be made of thoughts. Yet each day is still comprised of entirely human moments. And in those moments, we can think about whatever we choose. And even people living on the street have friends they care about. They still have things they enjoy, and things they find funny.
There is nothing wrong with feeling our sadness. There is nothing wrong with feeling the impulse to want the pandemic to be over. Those are the healthy feelings of people who are forced by nature, to live in ways that are challenging to our personal nature. So the feelings are fine. What we don’t want to do is nurture them to the point where they linger.
Feel down as long as it feels good to feel down. Call a friend and let them know you want to express some COVID frustrations. Even tell them you might be unreasonable or sound crazy –that’s what you’re looking for: a safe place to vent. To cry. To scream.
Crying and screaming are not problems in and of themselves so long as that is what we truly wanted to do in our soul. If crying out was what our nature asked for, then doing that is healthy, not unhealthy. That sort of reaction is one of the stepping stones on the way back to equanimity and mental health.
Don’t make yourself sick by trying to avoid what you think of as weakness. It’s not weakness, it’s like a steam valve that lets excess energy escape safely. It still screams and it can be super hot. But in the end it’s just like air escaping from a balloon. Once we’ve given the universe back it’s negativity, it’s out of us.
There is no need to block the flow of feelings through us. We are not successful when we ‘turtle’ behind ‘Bat Fink’s wings of steel.’ We do not need to avoid feeling badly, we need to let those feelings travel through us, without being impeded by our thinking.
As long as we are not violent or abusive, we can feel free to feel things. If we release the negativity we can then continue with gratitude. And if our negativity generates the need for some apologies, give them promptly. Those are the people that allowed us to equalize the pressure we felt inside so they deserve respect for giving that service to us.
Trying to avoid bad feelings is the best way to nurture bad feelings. They do not need to be fought, as though we are damming some river. They need to be allowed to flow; by us and by others. If we can all function in that supportive and healthy way, that is what leaves room for all of our emotions –even the ‘negative’ ones– to contribute to a healthy whole.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.