Imperfect Spirituality

How to connect to the energy of everyday life

The Good Thing About Feeling Bad

Learn to experience the bad feelings without behaving badly.

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I write a lot about what you can do to feel good. When we feel better, we do better and that kind of energy raises the level of life for all of us. Plus, I like those warm fuzzy, running-through-the-daisies kind of feelings that come love and happiness. Happiness, is, well, nice.

But, instead of going solely for the happiness factor, (now don't go telling Gretchen Rubin I said this), I believe the real key is to become aware - conscious of - whatever we are feeling, whether it's comfortable or not. To recognize what you're feeling on a physical, spiritual and emotional level is empowering, energizing and sometimes, well, a little icky.

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The Benefits of Bad Feelings

Guilt. Regret. Anger. Envy. We may think these are our worst emotions, but they can actually help us grow.

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This isn't about being cheerful all the time, it's about recognizing what it feels like when we're feeling low, or angry, and noticing how our behavior subscribes to that. Then, we have a choice about how to manage those tough feelings. It's about being connected to spirit and aware of what's coming in and out of our body and brain. About being whole. By identifying how those emotions feel in and move through our bodies we can also heal physical ailments, release stress and prevent sickness. Pay attention. What does anger feel like? What about stress? Do you have a headache? What emotion were you experiencing when that came on?

Experiencing your emotions is about noticing that you, um, got a teeny bit angry when that souped-up minivan (you know the one with the doors that open automatically) cuts you off. Or maybe acknowledging that you did overreact just a bit when your husband declared carrot cake as a vegetable serving.

Yes, our angry, blaming, micro-managing nature usually shows up in the little things first, but there are plenty of big things too that trigger the emotional hotspots: our fears over job security, anger about dwindling finances, insecurity about our aging, wrinkled body, disappointment over dreams not yet realized.

That's the big stuff we deny. When those negative, uncomfortable feelings come up, we often distract ourselves by eating too much, picking fights, working more than we need too. We hide behind the trivial stuff - a la fights-over-the- remote and other random arguments - because to look the things driving those big emotions feels vulnerable and uncomfortable. So what? Pain IS uncomfortable, but it isn't the end. And, the Bigwigs tell us that when focus on the bad feelings we diminish their effect.

Besides, the way many of us unconsciously experience negative emotions is plenty uncomfortable too. I mean really. Do you feel great when you drink too much or eat too much or yell too much or do anything else to disconnect from yourself and this life experience?

So, try it this way from now on: tune into your emotions, feel the pain and fear and anxiety. Let them motivate you to change your limiting beliefs and move you toward your purpose. Use them as clues to the blocks that you've got in your body and brain that are keeping you from achieving what you want most.

And when you do that, you also get to dip into the passion, joy and happiness that's always there too.

It's a courageous thing to do -- to feel all those biggie emotions without turning away and without dipping into a gallon of Ben and Jerry's. It's powerful to feel the bad emotions and not behave badly from them. When you are able to settle into those feelings you can move through them with grace and curiosity. You are just strong enough to handle it.

 

Polly Campbell is a writer in Portland, OR, working on Imperfect Spirituality, a book that shows how to integrate spiritual practices and self-improvement principles into our daily routines. more...

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