Allowing the Grief

Many modern coaching techniques and self-help media emphasize that what you focus on will manifest in your life. This is very true. Unfortunately many people, particularly the newly uninitiated, take this as they shouldn’t feel bad and often beat themselves over feeling bad. This will just keep you spiraling in on yourself.

Don’t knock yourself about feeling bad. Allow yourself to feel bad. Allow yourself to feel grief and pain. There’s often something to learn from that space.

Now here’s the rub: If you keep feeling the same bad emotions at the same level of intensity from the same event or activity or person, you aren’t really growing and learning.

Grief, sadness, anger, turmoil, frustration and the like are evoked in us by a multitude of situations. In today’s fast-paced, go-getter, we-must-have-it-done-two-days-ago society, more and more people are finding themselves with shorter tempers, greater frustrations, higher stress, and, all in all, less and less of the good feelings. What most people are doing is reveling in the emotions, getting a perverted high from being angry or frustrated or sad. This isn’t necessarily a conscious choice. It’s just that your body has become accustomed and learned to feed off the angry vibes that everyday life evokes in you.

Your first step is to notice these emotions and take ownership of them. Say it was a fast driver who gapped in front of you. Question why you’re angry at the driver. And be sure to make it about you. That driver in all likelihood has no idea that you even exist, let alone that his or her actions are having such a powerful influence on you. Think about that. More often than you’d like to believe, the people who cause us perceived grief really aren’t aware of what is happening within us.

And you will find that those same people can evoke different reactions and emotions in other people from the same activity. Whatever is happening within you is entirely about you and not any external person, situation or activity. Once you accept that, you can allow yourself to productively wallow in whatever you’re feeling.

Question your emotions. In the case of a fast driver, are you angry because you feel you are unsafe in traffic? Are you angry because you are late and feel the other person is being inconsiderate? Is there maybe something else underlying your anger that has nothing to do with the traffic, like a deadline or lack of sleep or built-up stress and tension?

Those questions will start opening you up to discovering what triggers certain emotions in you. You can always take it further and deeper by consulting with a trained therapist. Therapists can offer you an objective perspective which often reveals insights that you would have never been aware off. You could also talk to a friend that you trust and feel safe with. However, should you find yourself wading into deeper levels of emotion and possible trauma, a trained therapist would be in a better position to handle the situation.

As you sit with your perceived negative emotions and come to understand what they represent in you, you will find that you’re able to let go of them. A trick I find handy is to not take situations seriously. I haven’t mastered this tactic in all situations but, for example, I am usually one of the most most patient and calm drivers to ever tackle Johannesburg traffic. There are a minuscule few instances when I would ever feel angry toward another driver.

The important thing is not to sweep your anger and frustration and sadness under the rug. Find appropriate and safe ways to vent. And by allowing the emotions space to work themselves out, you will feel calmer on the whole and be better able to focus on the things that do bring you joy-joy feelings.

Later in this week, I will continue this thread with more on focus and the principle of so-called positive thought.