In a session with a client the other day we were talking about a particular work situation she had encountered that made her feel bad. And I was asking her some probing questions and having her bring up some things about her work that were positive and that made her feel good. And after a few moments she said to me “but sometimes I just want to be able to feel the way I feel.” And I was so glad she said that because it helped me to clarify something for her. That she is absolutely 100% allowed to feel her feelings. And she should feel her feelings! By helping her to focus on more positive aspects of her job I was simply trying to help her to see the other side of the coin, not tell her how she should feel.
It seems that when people start doing any kind of affirmative work or begin using the power of positive thinking or embarking on a path of personal growth and development it can come with some pressure to be positive. And while I see limitless goodness in focusing on the positive, that does not mean that people are not allowed to feel what they are feeling. I can often be heard saying to clients “where you are is where you are. And that’s OK.” The work that I am leading folks to however is to not get STUCK in those bad feeling or negative places.
I believe that we need to feel and process what were are experiencing. I don’t think it’s healthy to pretend that we feel great when there is underlying stuff going on and then to use feeling “positive” as a Bandaid. Allowing yourself to feel what you feel is a matter of processing your feelings. For example, someone at my client’s job said something that offended her and hurt her feelings. Should she pretend it didn’t and that she feels just hunky-dory? No, I don’t believe so. But what I recommended to her is feel how you need to and then let it go. Don’t hang on to that anger. Hanging on to negativity can (and probably will) make you sick.
And that’s where positive thinking comes in. It’s about where your focus is. I asked her if there were people at her job that told her things that made her feel good and she said yes. And then I asked her which feels better, to think about the things that made her feel good or that felt bad? She answered to think about the things that feel good. So that’s where I asked her to keep her focus. Those thoughts were a matter of choice for her and it was within her control to decide to focus on the negative or the positive.
This is different than looking at the glass half empty or half full. When encountering a situation and then choosing how to look at it, I would absolutely then recommend the glass half full because most of the time what we believe will come to pass most certainly will. So why not expect the best! If you’re afraid to expect the best because you don’t want to be disappointed I can pretty much assure you that expecting the worst will leave you feeling worse than some potential disappointment and if disappointment is going to come why preface it with negative expectations? How does that really serve you? People think it keeps them safe or being realistic but it actually ends up making them feel unhappy.
This work that asks you to look at the positives in your life is not about pressure to feel good all of the time. No one feels good ALL of the time. But all emotional states are transient. They only become static when we choose to hold on to the anger, pain, fear, blame, or any negative emotions. We consciously choose to hold on to those emotions and they don’t feel good so why not choose to hold on to the better feeling emotions? There is always another side of the coin, the work is to be conscious of looking for it so it becomes about moving through what doesn’t feel good to choosing to focus on what does. And it’s that place where I believe staying positive leads to a happier and healthier life experience.