We often hear about the importance of thinking and “staying” positive, even in the midst of an inner turmoil and suffering. I find this to be tricky business, because it may produce a counter-effect of detaching even further from the feelings, and from the potentially repressed causes of those feelings. And I cannot resist connecting it – as a phenomenon - to do the social facade our dominant society has come to wear most of the time. “How are you doing?” has spontaneously become a convenient question declaring that we don’t really want to hear the more meaningful answer of how the person is actually feeling. And even in the case of “how are you?” the automatic response is “I’m well” even when this is far away from the truth. People don’t seem willing to mess with the not-being-well of another person.
Putting on a happy face in front of others only reflects the overall stance we adopt towards ourselves. Certain feelings that we experience, however primordial and natural, we label as bad, and we rush to overcome them.
Pain is a suggestion that something requires our attention. But when we are hurting, we rarely allow ourselves to use, for instance, the healing power of tears. Instead, we use all the coping mechanisms and distractions we can find to dull our mind (consumption, sedatives, over-sleeping, too much television watching, over-talking, over-working etc). Anything goes that will help us avoid sitting with, and giving meaning to the feelings.
For this peculiarity to be happening, it must be that deep down we carry a huge amount of guilt for the way we feel. More often than not we believe that we should not feel the way we do. Alas, there is no such thing as should when it comes to feelings – they simply ARE. Whether socially imposed or even inherited, the guilt around feelings has come to shape much of our behavior. Therefore, it is a good starting point for practicing giving attention. Once the attention has been given, there will likely be attunement to the feeling, expression and more attention to the consequent changes.
To harbor honesty about the way we feel at any given moment means tosurrender to it. As long as we resist what goes on inside us, we are intensifying the anxiety and unnecessarily burdening ourselves. The “think positive” manual doesn’t usually work in such cases. Being true to our feelings may initially frighten us but, in my opinion, it is very well worth the risk. In the long run it brings forth the feeling of freedom, sincerity and clarity. And it provides great relief, if for no other reason, then because of all that saved energy that we otherwise waste into pretending to be all right.