Then you’re doing something right.
“If you’re really listening, if you’re awake to the poignant beauty of the world, your heart breaks regularly. In fact, your heart is made to break; its purpose is to burst open again and again so that it can hold evermore wonders.” ~ Andrew Harvey
I recently saw a self-help book, I don’t remember the name, designed to help us completely eradicate anger and other unpleasant feeling emotions out of our lives. It’s also designed to “make” us not even care at all when someone rejects us or when a relationship ends. Not only to eliminate “negative” emotions or help us heal but to PERMANENTLY obliterate them. Forever. Never feel anything but positive emotions again as long as we live. To be forever indifferent to negative events in the world. What a joke, right? It even has a warning saying something along the lines of “Caution, do NOT read this book if you do not want to permanently erase sadness over rejection….you can NEVER go back…. We promise…”
I’m not buying it. Not just like I’m not buying that book. That too. But I’m not buying the nonsense they’re selling.
I don’t believe it’s possible or likely for most people but also, more importantly, I don’t want it to be possible. Even if I could, I would not permanently erase my emotions. Any of them. I refuse to be a brick wall. Or a zombie? Or some non-human emotionless thing.
I believe that life is a gift. And that includes our ability to FEEL. To feel pain, grief, pleasure, heartbreak, hope, and healing. Anger, fury, joy, and happiness. Sadness and relief. To feel rejected and accepted, empty, broken, then whole.
Imagine walking around in a constant, static state of just one emotion. Whether the emotion itself is pleasant or unpleasant, the whole experience is not pleasant, in my opinion. We don’t need dramatic mood swings but a little variation would be sweet.
Like the cliche goes, it’s easier to appreciate the good with a little bit of bad thrown in!
But not just that.
Unpleasant feeling emotions and sensations actually serve a purpose. We would be in trouble without them. They let us know something is wrong. They fuel us, motivate us, teach us. They keep us safe.
Being peaceful and happy in general and having great control over our emotions and thoughts and actions or expressions is one thing, rarely getting worked up or angry is one thing. A good thing! Permanently erasing “negative” emotions and never being capable of experiencing them again is something else.
Imagine a world without fear. Even if you could not feel fear, you likely wouldn’t be stupid. You would still know what can cause your death and seriously hurt you and probably would mostly avoid it but you may still act more recklessly than when you can feel fear. Your judgment may be a bit off without a healthy dose of fear.
Crossing a busy street for example. I see the horror of people crossing recklessly too often. They don’t want to wait so they dash through the speeding traffic, trying to avoid getting hit. It’s horrifying to witness. Just horrifying. They usually don’t get hit, thanking my lucky stars. And these are people who can and do feel fear. So imagine if some of those very same people could not experience fear. They would probably be even more reckless with their lives and the lives of those people in the cars, not having their fear to guide them.
This is also somewhat philosophical because if you think about it, if a person is unable to experience fear then does it mean that person also can’t experience a certain degree of concern? Is concern just a much lesser degree of fear?
(like some physical discomfort is a lesser degree of full-blown pain…?)
When I’m standing at a street full of speeding traffic and I’m safely on the pavement, it’s not full-blown fear I feel or even a lesser sense of anxiety. I know I’m safe so there’s nothing to fear. However, I do experience a certain degree of concern, enough to hold me back so I don’t go flying into traffic in a hurry to get across. Hmmmm…interesting.
My dad read a novel many years ago when I was a little girl, about a young woman who was born without the “fear gene.”. She never experienced fear a day in her life. I was fascinated but never read it. I remember my dad reading parts to me out loud. The character said she does not fear death or injury but she would never jump off a bridge or anything as she still knows what that can do. She doesn’t fear getting hurt but doesn’t want it. I can relate in some ways. I don’t “fear” getting a paper cut but I don’t want it. (perhaps desperately not wanting something IS some form of fear??) I don’t fear having a broken bone as long as it’s only a minor break of a less crucial bone but I sure don’t want it. I don’t fear any kind of surgery but would prefer not to have to undergo it. I’m not brave, necessarily, for not fearing this stuff. I’m just not naturally afraid of it. Fearlessness is not courage. Courage is feeling the fear but doing whatever it is anyway. That’s what it is to be brave. Being fearless isn’t. Like that quote about how superman isn’t really a hero in a way because he’s literally invincible, indestructible, the real heroes are you and me, who can be destroyed in many ways but still find it in us to go on, to take chances…
I’m assuming that fear means the full blown unpleasant feeling, not mere concern. The kind that makes you tremble, your heart pump like you want to run and run fast. There are different extents of fear, though, that I know of.
Some things I fear like that are: small closed in spaces, if I see someone nearly get hit by a car, if I think someone is about to die whether I know the person/animal or not, some amusement park rides (like the atmosfear – thing that drops) sleep paralysis,
Some things I don’t fear only because I know they can’t or probably won’t happen like: if I was the only human left on Earth, jumping out an airplane with a parachute (would probably terrify me, not thrill me), losing my sense of vision for a while. Because of my pain condition, I sometimes lose my hearing, sometimes completely and some occasions almost completely and have since I was a little girl before I knew why. I was always too afraid to tell my mom. It’s recurrent and the deafness and partial deafness lasts all different amounts of time, sometimes hours to a whole day, off and on. I never get completely used to it no matter how frequently it happens. I’m not as fearful when it happens as when I was a girl and young woman but it’s still very scary to lose a sense.
Imagine no ability to feel physical pain or any sort of physical discomfort? You wouldn’t know when your appendix is about to burst. You may not know if you’re having a heart attack or if you’re cut badly in a place you can’t see right away.
I don’t know about the lack of fear thing but I know there are people living with this very rare pain disorder. They often die prematurely because they cannot feel physical discomfort at all and can stay in one position for many hours which can result in damage to the body. They don’t naturally turn in their sleep. Unlike us with the ability to feel physical pain and discomfort, they have to learn when to move throughout the day and night to avoid muscle atrophy. We take it for granted and never have to learn. We don’t give it a second thought usually; we just mindlessly move at the first sign of pain or discomfort.
Many of us have heard of “those people who can’t feel physical pain” but we may have some serious misconceptions of this disorder.
They often don’t walk around exactly like people who can feel pain, with no extra problems. They have so much against them. They suffer serious and sometimes even deadly consequences.
When they’re children, they are often blinded and chew their own tongues off. They don’t realize the teeth going through their tongues and their own fingernails slashing their eyeballs. Parents often don’t know they have this disorder until this trauma occurs. They often have to have their teeth and fingernails removed or wear socks on their hands. Sometimes their eyes have to be removed because of the damage their fingernails cause. Many are in wheelchairs because of muscle/joint problems. They often can’t sweat and they overheat.
We naturally, often unconsciously, learn not to claw our eyes out and chew our tongues off because of pain & discomfort. No one usually has to teach us. Unfortunately for some, they do not have that gift.
They CAN feel emotional pain and other physical sensations, like massage and skin on skin contact.
They aren’t like those other people who have that other disorder and can’t feel anything physical because of some touch/feel/nerve problem/injury.
Imagine if you never felt anger. Not just being an easy going person who rarely gets angry and even when you do you control it well but imagine not having the ability to feel anger. I don’t know if anyone like this really exists but I imagine it can’t be all good. I suspect that if we all of a sudden could never experience anger, we may run into problems we never realized could happen. Anger may be serving other purposes we don’t even realize. We’re so used to having the ability we take it for granted.
Have you ever had something you never gave a second thought to then lost it and realized how much easier or better it really was making your life?
I know sometimes anger motivates me to act. To do what’s right. It fuels me to stand firm against things. For example, I remember an instance when I found that people were destructively criticizing me just to be unkind. I mostly felt paranoid and somewhat anxious and like a “victim” sort of.
But then anger crept in. But not the anger that destroys. That other kind. The kind that builds, fuels, the kind that gives me a backbone. Not the kind that made me want to retaliate. I did nothing at all to seek revenge on these people and did not care to but my anger for the situation helped me greatly. I thought “What the hell!! Let them talk, whatever they say is up to them, anyone can be criticized for whatever reason true or not. If I really wanted I can criticize too, I can if I want, do the same to them, they are wrong.” But I let it go. I let my anger give me life, let me rise above, even if only in my own head, instead of being the spineless jellyfish I was at first. They did not get over on me. Even though I did nothing back and never will.
And I did not get over on them. I just let it be. But in an active way.
My anger reminded me that I am equal no matter what they say. And anger, like fear, manifests in different degrees. A mild annoyance to a passionate fury.
Anger motivates us. And if we use it appropriately, it will motivate us to act/think for the better.
I want to be affected by the world and people, for good and for bad. I don’t want to build up walls. I want to feel as deeply as I can. If I feel unpleasant emotions as deeply as possible, I can feel the pleasant ones as deeply and experience the gift of life to the fullest.
Grief, loss, & rejection.
And about the pain of rejection and loss or grief. That shows us that one life or something impacted us. Touched us so deeply that we grieve over the loss or rejection. Don’t you want someone or something to impact you so deeply that it’s hard to say goodbye or hard to be pushed away? It shows that we’re open completely and that we had something to cherish at one point. And reminds us that it’s possible to feel that love again. And again. And again….
“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” ~ A.A. Milne
It’s so much better than being numb.
Guilt. Remorse. Regret.
So many people say “I have no regrets and never will.” Advising us not to regret or feel guilt. I agree to a certain extent. It’s best not to dwell on guilt and regrets but it’s ok to have certain regrets and experience a temporary healthy level of guilt when we’re wrong. But we should (should in my opinion, I don’t like telling people what they ‘should’ do) forgive ourselves and move forward, not carrying a constant burden of guilt for life.
If we don’t have the ability to feel guilt and regret it’s possible, just like I mentioned about fear, we may occasionally act more recklessly. I’m not saying completely be a monster and destroy everything and everyone but guilt and regret can aid us in our actions sometimes.
There are some occasions we may know intellectually that something is wrong but as long as we don’t feel guilt, emotionally, we justify it.
For example: Some years ago, my sister and me went with my mom and dad on a fun trip to the Eastern State Penitentiary here in Philadelphia to learn about the old prison, historical facts and all. I saw a prison hoodie I desperately wanted. My sister did not care at first to get one as much as I did. But my dad bought her one since he bought me one. They are on the expensive side and I eventually ruined mine. My sister’s got packed away. When we were pulling stuff out to move, I found her’s. And kept it. Hoping no one would remember I ruined mine and just think that’s mine and hers went missing. Lol! At first there was no guilt. I knew intellectually it’s wrong but emotionally I couldn’t have cared less.
I’m generally not a thief and generally very honest. And in most cases I won’t do wrong stuff knowing it’s wrong even if I don’t feel guilt with my emotion. Feeling guilt isn’t just knowledge of being wrong but feeling it. Feeling it emotionally as opposed to just intellectually.
But I justified this in all ways imaginable. I told myself that I was really the one who wanted it. I wore mine more often than she wore hers til I ruined it. She did not care about it anyway, I told myself. She had it stored away. I got away with it.
But as the days would come and go, guilt crept up on me. I no longer only knew it’s wrong. I felt it. It wasn’t mine. Whether or not she really wanted her hoodie, whether or not I loved it more, the hoodie was never mine. I caved into my guilt and fessed up. My sister was pissed! She yelled at me and called me a lying thief who can never again be trusted.
And while the lying thief part was true for that occasion, it’s generally not. That doesn’t make it ok for that occasion but I did not let my guilt overcome me after I confessed. I admitted I was wrong and I eventually did what’s right.
My sister wouldn’t forgive me at first but I was able to forgive myself.
It doesn’t change what I did but at least I made it right, as right as I could after the fact.
A guilty conscience is good when you know you were really wrong!
But you can cleanse it by confessing and moving forward. Accept that you were wrong. It’s not the end of the world.
I read a self help mediation book, I forget the name, and the author said whenever she did something wrong she would say to herself, to ease her guilt “I was wrong, so sue me!”.
That’s great to a certain point!
We really shouldn’t go all out and do bad, destructive, immoral things though, just because we can say “…..so sue me!” But when we’re wrong and are genuinely sorry, we can move on or move forward.
I don’t dwell on regrets but having them is ok.
I wasn’t just wrong to my sister but to the uni-verse, to life, to the world. I don’t want to be a thief, a sneak, a liar. That’s not who I want to be. I don’t want to put that kind of energy out into the world. It’s not who I am deep inside and when I act out of accordance with that, my conscience reminds me and won’t let me rest until I make it right. I want to be true. True to life and goodness and all that is right. I aspire to be all that is good and right and true. I won’t always know what that is. And occasionally I know different views will clash. What’s right to me may not be to someone else. What’s right in one situation may not be in another.
But it’s ok. I will live and learn. Accept and forgive, myself and others.
I believe painful emotions are ok, good, healthy even. But in moderation. In a healthy balance.
They can also help us empathize with and understand each other better because we can draw on our own experiences.
They’re inevitable at some points. We don’t have to intentionally inflict them upon ourselves and others.
We don’t have to go searching for pain and negativity. Anyway, there will be a plentitude throughout your days without searching!
As Dr. Steve Maraboli says “When you hate something, you chain yourself to it.”
It’s true, in my opinion but it’s not to say “hating” is wrong or unnatural and that we should never feel it. It simply means not to let the negativity get over on us by Dwelling on it. If you “hate” or strongly dislike something, let it motivate you to act for the better. Let hatred allow you to reach out in love.
To better appreciate all of life.
Let your painful and unpleasant emotions and feelings guide you in life along with your pleasant emotions and feelings and aid you in your actions. And let them remind you again and again that you are alive. And that’s a beautiful gift.