Once upon a time, I thought I was Happy. It was more like I forced myself to be happy because it was all I'd allow myself to feel.
I wouldn't have ever fully owned that, no siree, because happiness was sort of part of my identity. It wasn't like I felt other things and knew I pushed them away. I identified as, "I'm a happy person."
I was big into new age spirituality at the time. Whenever I'd get scared, upset, hurt, angry, or sad, I'd pray. Pray myself out of feeling bad.
Because, as I'd reason, and as I'd been taught, "Love is all there is." and "I'm a happy, free, and abundant being by nature."
What I heard in those teachings was, "Hooray! I'll never have to feel bad again!" Happiness was real and other "bad feelings" weren't.
It kind of worked for a while. I kept thinking that if I just meditated more, prayed more, affirmed more, Law of Attraction-ed more, I'd be "cured" of feeling stuff I didn't want to feel.
That's called Spiritual Bypassing. And I did it a lot.
This was not real happiness.
To my credit though, I didn't really know what I was doing. Nor did I understand the profound gift "negative feelings" could offer me.
Fast forward five years or so, to a time when I'd 180'd my life. I'd stopped spiritually bypassing and now dove head-first into feeling all the mucky, dark, intense feelings that even hinted at me from my psyche.
My awareness was like a magnet that gravitated to any hint of sadness, fear, anger, shame, guilt, or hurt, so that I could feel it and get closer to myself. I was determined to feel it all fully damnit.
I was out of balance. Again. The pendulum had now swung far to the other end.
This wasn't real happiness either (and this time it didn't even look like it).
Fast forward again to present day.
I am happy.
This time it's more real. More embodied. And I also feel my feelings. Balance.
I sometimes choose the deep dive into dark territory. And sometimes I feel the pull of old wounds and choose not to indulge. Instead I read a book, dip in the creek, exercise, or laugh with friends.
Here's the thing:
You have a choice. And happiness is a need.
It takes clear discernment plus love and connection with yourself to know when it's time to feel down into the painful places inside, and when what you need is nourishment through laughter, joy, or love.
We need both the light and the dark.
Here's a practice that'll help you find balance and authenticity across the spectrum of emotion.
When sadness, anger, hurt, fear, shame, guilt, or loneliness shows up, stay with your breath. Feel your body. If you notice you stop breathing, get tense in your muscles, or slump in your posture, back off of the emotion a bit. Slow down.
You want to be able to stay fully present to all the sensations in your body.
Let yourself taste your emotion, and let it express and move if that's available.
(If it gets big and cathartic, check in to see if you're still paying exquisite attention to the nuances of what's happening in your body).
If expression isn't available, and the pain you're feeling is familiar and comes along with habitual self-talk, looping thoughts, or a stuck feeling, then it might be time to come back to your body, take a few breaths, and decide to go out into the sunshine, or make some art, or dance.
In other words, it might be time for some self care that will help orient you out of the dark and into more aliveness.
Once you're more resourced and embodied, either alone or with a therapist, you can revisit those challenging places to help support and work with them.
And please, leave me a comment and let me know what makes you happy. Share one thing.
Also, will you share this on Facebook please? Thanks.
With a Happy Heart,
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