Have you noticed just how much Americans seek out happiness? It’s a bit of a relentless quest to feel good and content. There are a million different philosophies and self-help books about just how to get there (positive thinking, attitude of gratitude, daily affirmations, vision boards, meditation…) and there’s truth there.
But this feverish search for lasting happiness begs the question: What is the underbelly of that happiness we are so direly seeking?
It’s no secret – feeling bad, well, feels bad – and none of us want to live in that state for long. As a culture, we run from these “bad” feelings, take medications to escape them, and feel guilty for feeling them.
But what if instead of running from feeling badly (shame, guilt, jealousy, anger, etc) we saw those emotions for the invitation they are?
Negative emotions are a signal that we need to change what we are doing. They are your internal Bat Signal alerting you to something menacing happening in your life (internally or externally).
Ironically, productively feeling bad is that fastest route to feeling good. In order to find lasting, real happiness, it’s vital to feel ALL of our emotions and then act accordingly.
Each emotion drives us to engage in our lives in healthy and productive ways… IF we don’t shy away from the message.
So what’s the message, exactly? It’s simple, really… no decoder ring necessary!
Often, feeling bad points to guilt or shame.
Guilt is information we can use to change or improve our behavior, but too much guilt can rob our lives of joy.
First let me define necessary or healthy guilt and unnecessary or unhealthy guilt.
Necessary guilt is that Jiminy Cricket on your shoulder, the “Oops, I did something wrong!”. It’s the true north to your values.
The value of unnecessary guilt – that guilt that you feel when you take on feeling responsible for someone else’s experience or expectation – is in letting it go. Choosing to let it go creates room to feel joy and happiness. And the added bonus is that you get to build confidence by knowing what is your stuff versus someone else’s.
Even the unpleasant feeling of shame has certain benefits! Healthy shame is simply embarrassment, which when felt can signal us to file off our rough edges. Learning from embarrassment can make social interactions go more smoothly and comfortably, and can build your empathy muscle.
Shame lives in secrets and your false self, so the best medicine is to bring yourself out into the open – share of yourself. You will benefit by having extra energy because you aren’t using so much energy to repress or hide your true self. This builds trust and intimacy in important relationships.
The antidote to shame is love and acceptance. By sharing yourself, you are signaling to yourself and the world that you accept yourself: your wants and needs – quirks and all.
Want to explore how I can help you get to your Happy Place, sign up for a free Get Traction Now appointment – it’s one of my favorite things to help people see how they can take the driver’s seat to Happy.