I recently came across a Ted Talk video, presented by Psychologist Susan David.
I really resonated with it. She says, “You don’t get to have a meaningful career, or raise a family, or leave the world a better place, without stress or discomfort.”
Too often we feel shame for experiencing “negative” emotions and try to force ourselves into false positivity. However, most of these “negative” emotions are within the range of normal human experience.
I say we stop labeling emotions as good or bad and learn to accept what we are feeling, knowing that it will pass with time.
All that is worthwhile does not come to us if we are not willing to experience some disappointment, failure, discomfort or fear along the way. Stress is an inevitable part of life.
I shared the video with my own soapbox spiel on social media and got an overwhelming response, which told me that other people strongly agree. Apparently, I am not alone in feeling like we have been conditioned to struggle against any emotions that are seen as negative. I’ve personally come to believe that “undesirable” emotions are not inherently bad or wrong — they just get us hooked.
In David’s book, Emotional Agility, she outlines the feelings that so often get us hooked. She lists things like self-doubt, shame, sadness, fear and anger and notes that these feelings can often steer us in the wrong direction.
She states that emotionally agile people aren’t immune to stresses and setbacks, instead they adapt. In essence, they unhook. They align their actions with their values and make small but powerful changes that lead to a lifetime of growth.
She goes on to say, “Emotional agility is not about ignoring difficult emotions and thoughts; it’s about holding them loosely, facing them courageously and compassionately, and then moving past them to bring the best of yourself forward.”
I can really get behind her ideas because these are also some of the key components underlying my mindfulness-based approach to therapy.
It’s also the underpinnings of Buddhism (the original masters of mindfulness). So, in short, these concepts are not new. However, they are not very well understood or utilized in our current society.
There is a cultural conditioning that tells us we should seek out pleasure and avoid displeasure, no matter the cost. We are on a perpetual wheel, seeking happiness and joy as a constant state.
The reality is, all emotions are just passing states. We struggle when we try to cling or hold on to any one emotional experience. As a society, we value certain emotional experiences over others.
The good news is this doesn’t have to be the case. We have the power to choose. We can choose to suffer and fight against what is, or we can adapt and align our actions according to our own values.
I think that Susan David’s work on Emotional Agility is highly relevant to us as a society now. It is based in science and is comprised of over 20 years of her research and experience. It also speaks to those of us who are driven in ways that Buddhist monks simply were not.
She looks at how Emotional Agility contributes to success, rather than takes away from it. She says that, “no matter how intelligent or creative people are, or what type of personality they have, it is how they navigate their inner world – their thoughts, feelings, and self-talk – that ultimately determines how successful they will become.”
In conclusion, I am in full support of dropping false positivity and instead celebrating ALL of the feelings that accompany every meaningful success or life experience. I am releasing the need to struggle against my feelings, and I am embracing acceptance at the highest level.
Are you with me??