Memes about how it’s all just a matter of a positive attitude abound. I know I’ve posted a few myself. I do believe that so much of our life experience is dependent on how we chose to frame it. There is a huge element of perception involved in how bad a negative experience can be.
But, and this is a huge but – trying to be positive all the time is not healthy.
I’m going to repeat that in a different way, in case you missed it. Denying your negative experiences and feelings is not healthy.
I used to be so angry with the mother of my stepchildren. I hated her, and then I hated myself for allowing myself to hate her. I was torn as to who I hated most – her for the behaviour I saw as so abhorrent or me for not being able to let go and my anger. I ended up making myself physically ill, I carried so much stress and tension in my body, I was in incredible pain.
My anger at myself for feeling, what were at the time, congruent feelings was what was making me ill. If I had allowed myself to feel the anger and frustration, instead of fighting it and beating myself up for it, the feelings would have passed far more quickly and easily.
Instead, I felt so lost and alienated from the person I had thought I was and the person I felt I should be.
Anger is an important feeling. One we need to be grateful for and pay attention to. Anger tells us when our boundaries have been crossed. It tells us when we are not honouring ourselves or are allowing others to dishonour or respect us. Anger is one of the most important tools in our toolbox when it comes to keeping ourselves safe.
I spoke to a friend the other night who had hit breaking point. She had just had enough, she felt it was too much to go on and she felt ashamed and weak because of those feelings.
It was at that moment I realised just how dangerous these exhortations to maintain positivity at all times are, how shaming the idea that your problems are down to your attitude and just changing your thinking will change your world.
Guess what, we all have moments when we reach our limit.
Every single one of us. What we often don’t have is a safe space to share those moments.
We don’t have enough people saying – guess what, your response is completely congruent with the entirely crappy situation you are dealing with. Rage, cry, scream and blame the world and those in your world who are causing you pain.
We need to have those kinds of conversations more often. People need to understand their pain and suffering is not their fault or a result of a crappy, weak attitude or mind. We also need to let people know these times will pass. Life will move on, the pain of this current situation will change.
It’s here that for me the rubber hits the road.
It’s what we do with those painful experiences that defines our lives.
When we see these times as calls to action, as times when we are being pushed to look at our lives and figure out what is causing us pain…we can make sure our visits to Pity Town don’t turn into long term stays or end up with us being trapped there.