Most people are raised to believe that the goal of life is to be happy all of the time. The reality is, in life, you will experience a mix of both positive and negative emotions, regardless of your circumstances. The circumstances could be going through separation, falling in love, being in a custody battle, winning the lottery, getting a cancer diagnosis, or having a child graduate with honours. Doesn’t matter, you will still have lots of both positive and negative feelings.
The human experience is simply this: 50/50. This is by design to provide contrast. Even rock stars and fashion models with seemingly perfect marriages still rate around 50/50 in the feelings department.
You don’t need to always strive for positive emotions. You don’t always have to feel good. It is normal to have some negative emotions, and in fact, we would choose that. Do you want to feel happy when someone you love dies? You probably want to experience grief as it validates a loving relationship.
As humans, we don’t like how negative emotions feel, so a lot of our behaviour or actions are an attempt to resist or avoid them. This can look like drinking alcohol in the face of anxiety, or raiding the pantry when your child mouths off to you. Things that will give you a temporary lift from your bad mood.
The next time you are experiencing a negative feeling, just relax and breathe into it. Allow it to be there. There is no need to be afraid, because a feeling is simply a vibration in our body. Recognize the emotion and name it. Explore where it is in your body and how it feels. This allows you to become “the Watcher” of the emotion. Hold space for the feeling and ask yourself, what is the sentence in my brain that has generated this emotion? Perhaps it is something like “my son shouldn’t speak that way to me”, or “I never can stay on a diet”. That thought is what is generating your negative emotion.
Whenever my coaching colleagues and I talk about an upcoming event such as a vacation, we always end the conversation with these well wishes: “have a 50/50 holiday!”. This reminds us that even on holiday there will be hiccups and negative emotions and that is exactly how it is supposed to be.