The pursuit of happiness is every individual’s ultimate goal, and every day we are reminded that this is within our control. Whether this is through work, relationships, self-development activities, material possessions or simply changing our mindset, we are taught various ways to increase our happiness levels. Yet despite all this effort, we still feel moments of grief, fear, anger, loneliness, jealousy and lack of fulfilment. What can we do about these negative feelings?
Because we’re self-sufficient and successful in our working lives, we are frustrated with ourselves for having emotional responses to situations that shouldn’t affect us. Why aren’t we able to move on from that break up as soon as we realised they weren’t good for us? Why are we feeling jealous or physically insecure when we know our own value is worth so much more than this? Why are we feeling a bit down when we know we’re luckier than so many other people in the world? Why can’t we talk ourselves out of these negative feelings?
The truth is, as smart, strong and independent as we are, we are still only human. Once we accept this, we can start to truly embrace our experiences and reach our potential as complete human beings. Negative experiences teach us empathy and compassion. In the moment that we have these feelings, we should be investigating their causes and then accepting them as part of our lives, rather than blindly pushing them away or berating ourselves without understanding their importance. If we do the latter, we risk letting our past negativity build up internally until it erupts at some point in our lives when we reach a crisis point. To avoid this, in the very moment that we encounter these thoughts and feelings we should:
- Investigate the cause and make sure that we understand why we feel this way. For example, we may acknowledge that we feel more hurt and betrayed by our recent break up because in this relationship we had been more open and forthcoming than previous relationships. Thus the end of this one felt more like a rejection of our true selves.
- Accept the feeling – really accept that it’s okay to feel this way, and there is no requirement to be joyful 100% of the time. We may be known as the happy person amongst our friends, but we should not feel obliged to put on a front if inside this is not the case (and do not be fooled by social media into believing that everyone else is happy all the time). True happiness takes a long time (and a lot of effort) to build and we should be patient with ourselves.
- Embrace the ability to be human and build on this experience, which allows us to gain empathy, resilience and a greater awareness of our ourselves.
- Set boundaries, to allow us the space to move forward. Nothing worthwhile in life comes without effort, and the same goes for building happiness and awareness. Once we’ve understood the cause of our negative emotions, we can create a space for acceptance (really allowing ourselves to feel), and then we can create a space to move forward.
For example, now that we understand why we are hurt from the break up, we can embrace the ensuing grief and loss of hope that we had for that relationship. But we acknowledge that this is only one aspect of our lives and we do not allow it to overshadow and take control over the rest of our life decisions. So we might set a time limit – allow ourselves to be sad, cry, and eat comfort food, but only for the next few hours and then we need to start living our lives again. Perhaps we do this for several days, weeks, or months until the pain becomes less and less and we have completely let go of the past.
The hardest thing is to do what’s right for ourselves in times of conflict and unhappiness.
To nourish and look after ourselves as best as possible, through a crisis.
Over time, the more often we can do this for ourselves, the quicker it is for us to clearly understand our emotions and deal with them effectively. We process them, accept them and move on without leaving a negative build up of emotions and past conflicts within us. Then we can start to fight less – it becomes less scary to be completely human and feel all these difficult emotions. Over time, it also becomes a lot easier and quicker for us to move forward.
Our emotional awareness and capacity to transform becomes well developed, and soon the number of weeks it previously took us to move on has now turned into hours, minutes and seconds.
This is the key to happiness – not shutting down all our negative feelings in life, but truly embracing the complete human experience.
Chiara is the founder of CIIARA. A French-born Vietnamese living in Melbourne. Passionate about dance, fashion and social change.