Like happiness and joy, the “blues” are part of our genetic makeup. Yet in our society, we are commonly led to believe that these feelings should be excluded from our lives — it seems trying to avoid the bad is also human nature. Instead of feeling these emotions, we’re told to “keep a stiff upper lip”; “bite your tongue”; “don’t cry, smile”; “don’t be sad”; “don’t worry, be happy.”
But as difficult or uncomfortable as it is to get in touch with feelings of shame, fear or sadness, it’s more valuable than we are taught: Ignoring the yucky feelings and just “stuffing them under the rug” only delays processing them and, subsequently, getting back to feeling good. Trying to ignore or eliminate the blues is a futile battle.
We live in a success-oriented culture that stresses being ambitious and getting things accomplished — that’s difficult to do if we are feeling down. Yet it’s easy to pack so much activity into a day that we don’t have time to get in touch with our feelings, much less process them. By the end of the day, we just want to relax and have fun, getting straight to feeling good. To get to positive, however, we sometimes have to go through the negative.
We all know that children surrender very quickly to their emotions. We’ve all witnessed, for instance, a child getting his or her feelings hurt and breaking down into tears on the spot. They cry their little hearts out with passion, and then, just minutes later, are up and playing. That’s a clear demonstration of how allowing yourself to fully express negative emotions can quickly transform into more positive ones.
That transformation does not happen on an intellectual level. In the emotional state, there is no analytic observation and no logical thought. Emotions are felt. Yet as we grow up, we learn to control our emotions, often burying them inside.
I believe, as adults, we need to create an appropriate place to express the emotions we put on hold. And though allowing ourselves to completely surrender to our emotions can be terrifying, and trusting the process takes courage, as well as time and practice, it’s worth every ounce of effort. (I’ve found that using a professional to help guide me to those feelings can be of great help.)
Finding a path to a balanced and healthy emotional life is what I strive for — and thanks to strategies learned in therapy that I’ve practiced time and time again, I can attest that it can be done! Rather than deny the blues or any of the emotions we judge as negative (anger, jealousy, frustration, shame, fear, etc.), I’ve discovered there can be a very positive use for them, and that they offer a great many benefits. For one, facing and fully expressing them brings me to new levels of self-knowledge and creativity.
When I try to avoid feeling the blues, they always come back to haunt me. I find that the negative feelings stack up over time, and eventually I have to deal with them one way or another. If I don’t, I end up in a general, unspecific depression, and it’s much harder to get to the bottom of what instigated it in the first place. I’ve also noticed that if I don’t express sadness, anger, shame or any of the negative emotions with passion, I can’t fully express positive emotions either: Putting a cap on one emotion limits the expression of them all. When I get in touch with what I am truly feeling, however, it always leads to a positive transformation.
As a result of dealing with the backlog of repressed emotions through therapy, I can now handle my feelings on my own. When negative feelings arise, I sing the blues, figuratively and literally. I face them head on, sinking into them and doing whatever it takes to bring them on full force. I may read poetry, watch a movie or listen to music to trigger more expression. For me, embracing the blues and feeling them completely is the most powerful step toward feeling better. It allows my energy to move; it allows the transformation toward personal growth and evolution.
I keep in mind that happiness includes all emotions and that the whole spectrum makes my life richer and more passionate. Once you find the blues righteous, life starts to look brighter!
It’s helpful to remember:
“What you resist, persists.”
“If you don’t dig the blues, you got a hole in your soul.”
What do you do to handle the blues? I’d love to hear from (and learn from) you . . .