Negative emotions and sad or upsetting events are a part of our lives. Constant good feelings and happiness only exist in advertising and on Instagram. And let’s be honest, do you actually want to feel happy when your best friend is critically ill? There you go. Good vibes only? Not possible in the real world. Sometimes, life just sucks.
When we’re too busy chasing happiness, a sudden negative event can completely throw us off balance. If we try to avoid negative feelings at all costs, we spend all our energy distracting ourselves, pushing the feelings away and trying hard not to think about the pink elephant all day (you’re probably familiar with this – do NOT think about a pink elephant!) that ultimately, you still end up pretty exhausted, because it’s exhausting not to face our problems.
Red beach ball
In this context, I always like to introduce the story of the red beach ball:
Imagine you are on holiday in a really nice place, swimming in the pool. There is only one problem: there’s a red beach ball in the pool. Unfortunately, you really dislike red balls. So much so that you don’t want to be in the pool with the ball. Unfortunately, you cannot throw the ball out of the pool, so what do you do? You push the ball under water because then you at least don’t have to see it… You see where this is going, don’t you? You spend your energy pushing a silly ball underwater instead of relaxing in the pool. It’s pretty exhausting. And it’s not that easy either because these balls are slippery and keep pushing back up to the surface. If you’re not careful, it will pop out of the water again. So you have to keep pushing, pushing and pushing…
The situation is similar with negative feelings. If we constantly push them away, it not only costs us an incredible amount of energy, but the feelings usually come back to the surface with even more force, just like the ball in the water.
People who have never learned to recognise, endure, experience and express negative feelings will struggle at some point in their lives when they are too exhausted from pushing the negative feelings away. That is usually when people come to see me in my online practice.
Just be happy
But all I want is to be happy again! Of course, I understand that. But the way to get there is not to find new strategies to keep the ball underwater. Nor does it involve alcohol, chocolate and more Netflix.
I’m not going to help you put a heavy weight around the ball (Maybe you could tie it to the bottom of the pool? Or let the air out and destroy the ball entirely?). The solution is not to avoid the feelings and negative thoughts but to face them. Sounds scary? Yes, perhaps at first it is. But it’s a bit like the monster under the bed – you won’t know how big and dangerous it is until you finally look at it.
Accepting negative feelings
Maybe you could learn to accept the ball in the pool? Perhaps you will even find the pool big enough for both of you? You have already mastered, overcome and survived so much in life. Don’t you think you can handle this as well? You, too, can learn to accept negative feelings as part of life and find new ways to deal with them.
If you want to stop spending all your energy pushing the ball further underwater but have no idea how to do it, get in touch with me!
Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash