I recently came across an article By You’ll Be Happier If You Let Yourself Feel Bad’.
It talks about a study, led by University of Toronto Assistant Psychology Professor Brett Ford, which explores the link between our acceptance of negativity and our well-being.
Accepting negative situations wasn’t the key to increased psychological health but accepting how we feel about, or because of, negative situations was closer to the mark.
According to the study, we still tend to think that happiness is the absence of negativity rather than the acceptance of it, and the research found that whilst we can’t always control our emotions, we can control how we respond to them and sometimes it’s best to let ourselves feel okay about feeling bad.
Feeling bad isn’t fun and I meet lots of people who judge themselves (harshly) for feeling negative emotions – feeling ‘bad’: bored, jealous, afraid, angry, sad and so on…
But surely negative emotions are just a natural part of being human, of the ‘rich tapestry’ of life’s ups and downs – and we wouldn’t understand ‘happy’ if we didn’t know what ‘sad’ was?
I certainly come across this on a fairly regular basis, helping my clients (and occasionally reminding myself!) to ‘be OK with not being OK’ – for the time being anyway – and, of course, working with them towards feeling better later on and for more of the time.
Noticing which of our emotions are triggered, and when and how this happens, is a key part of the work when using CBT as a means of understanding what’s going on and changing the dynamics for the future – and acceptance features in here, too.
Ford says the results from the experiments:
“… underscore the broad relevance of acceptance as a useful tool for many people.”
“The overall take-home message is that emotions are naturally short-lived experiences,”
So, if we can learn to accept our emotions, notice them and let them ‘wash over us’ rather than allow them to overwhelm us, resist them or push them away:
“…these emotional experiences would actually pass relatively quickly.”
As the Buddhist saying goes – happy or sad, afraid or angry:
“This, too, will pass.”