On my train ride this morning, I read a really enlightening piece from Psychology Today‘s February issue, entitled “Beyond Happiness: The Upside of Feeling Down.”
Do you find that some emotions are more socially ‘acceptable’ than others? I’m becoming more and more conscious about which of my emotions the people in my daily life support and respond to and which ones they ignore or disengage with. And beyond myself, I try to pay attention to these patterns across social media platforms, especially Facebook which allows for longer, in-depth posts.
Facebook ‘friends’ seem to react more robustly and frequently with happy, cheery, ‘something-great-happened-to-me,’ ‘look-how-amazing-my-life-is’ posts than ones that express sadness, depression, grief, anger, melancholy, disappointment.
And while I understand that some people may not know how to react to someone’s sadness or do their best to show support, their response tends to brush off the emotion, rather than recognizing and validating it, sending the message of don’t let this get you down, you can beat this, don’t let this have power over you.
While these kinds of comments may come from a good place or intention, sometimes they come off as impatient and restrict the freedom of the person to represent their life as it currently stands. I notice that social spaces don’t allow the same room for sadness and discomfort as they do with happiness and cheer. But we do know that life ain’t always a picnic, right? Who’s to determine which feelings deserve to come to light and which ones remain hidden?
We, as sentient, complex humans, should be allowed to feel and express the full range of emotions we experience on a daily basis. The best thing we can do for the people we love and care about is give them permission to fully feel what they feel, freely allow them that space, just listen and absorb. Let them be human, basically.
Here’s an excerpt from that piece:
No one questions the value of feeling good. In fact, it seems that for the past 20 years, everyone in America has been on a relentless quest for a blue-sky state of mind, in pursuit of permanent residence on the spectrum between contentment and ecstasy. Feeling bad is another matter entirely. Emotions that generate unpleasant feelings have been called sins (wrath, envy), shunned in polite interaction (jealousy, frustration), or identified as unhealthy (sadness, shame). We suppress them, medicate them, and berate ourselves for feeling them. Because such feelings are aversive, they are often called “negative” emotions, although “negative” is a misnomer. Emotions are not inherently positive or negative. They are distinguished by much more than whether they feel good or bad.