There was a time when “panicked, nauseous and suicidal” just about described my mental state seventy percent of the time. Unlike Andie from The Devil Wears Prada I did not work in a glamorous, high-powered industry. For me even the simple things like getting up and conducting human relationships were a struggle. People who know me now might be shocked by this revelation, while some of the people I knew then probably didn’t realise what was going on under the surface.
The change came when someone in my life, who could be described as cruel, thoughtless, and controlling tipped me into a gradual revelation simply by being unable to tolerate my emotion. He said “Just be happy!” in the hope that the imperative would somehow eradicate the issues between us. It didn’t, but it set my mind off on a voyage of discovery that led to me becoming the much more balanced person I am today.
All emotions can be beautiful.
Whether consciously or not, this is something I always believed. Through the misery of loneliness and loss, I would wallow like a pig in muck. A few years ago I caught my son looking at himself crying in the mirror, enjoying the image of his own sorrow!
The exquisite agony of losing a lover can be akin to the pain of childbirth. Potentially you may also reap the same rewards; a new birth. As a new parent you have a new person to nurture. As a spurned partner you have to nurture yourself through a new phase of your life.
Misery is so accommodating. Easily glamourised like the child in the mirror. This is why there are so many beautiful sad songs out there. Some of us are even attracted to sad-looking people. One of my male friends has admitted to finding women more attractive when they are crying. Does this make him sadistic? Perhaps he feels more needed; that an opportunity exists to be the hero. The expression ‘Misery is the greatest muse’ exists for a reason.
On the other hand it is pretty difficult to glamourise happiness unless it is happening to somebody else. This is something we conveniently forget when we are seething with envy over the joy of a ‘friend’ celebrating their perfect relationship on Facebook. We forget that not only does every cloud have a silver lining, the reverse is also true.
Pretending to positivity and denying our inner hurts can be a road to mental breakdown.
Positivity, or rather the choice to be positive can be just as addictive as its counterpart. We can ride the high wave without acknowledging our inner hurts, using it as a convenient mechanism for ignoring our issues. We force ourselves to keep smiling, whilst resenting the negativity of others, blaming them for ‘bringing us down’ on a bad day. If I really am 100% content and happy, why is it so easy for another’s mood to bring me down? Blaming others’ actions for our own emotions is not going to solve anything.
Flipping the coin
If we really are attempting to flip our focus 180 degrees from a negative to a positive bias, the company we keep will play a part. We must never forget, however, that we ourselves are responsible for our own actions, including our emotional responses. In the past I found that I was giving too much emotional weight to the attitudes and opinions of others. This allowed me to become a victim of bullying in the workplace and an unhappy controlled partner in my relationship. I worried about what everyone thought. If someone was unhappy, it was my job to try and change it. These days I aim for balance rather than happiness and guess what? I feel happy. Not all the time, but there is a contentment that pervades everything which didn’t exist before.
Ignoring misery and pain is not going to make it go away. ‘The dark, the light and the half-light’ are woven together to create the fabric of life we live through every day. You can choose to zone in on the dark or the light, but your focus on one does not eradicate the other.
Why not embrace it all? Notice each shade and tone; appreciate the whole whirlpool of colours, acknowledging each one until we realise it is not only the emotions of others that need not shake us, but also our own.