A friend asked me, based on my experience as a psychologist watching people develop personally and interpersonally, what I think are the three most positively transformative lessons to help people enjoy life. Wow, narrow it to three! Here are some concepts that I can say for sure change people for the better if they really understand them at an emotional level (not just going through the motions—though “fake it ‘til you make it” does help in the meantime). The first two are for you and relating to yourself and your life, and the last is for relationships, which we all know play a HUGE role in how we feel and how much we enjoy each day.
Lesson 1: What we resist persists.
We can’t control our feelings. We can only choose to avoid them. Some people call this “rising above” them, but usually with a little poking the feeling is right under the surface draining their energy. The only way I’ve seen to effectively relieve painful emotions is to embrace them and go through them. The more you can make space to fully feel something, in fact, the more the feeling can transform and release.
This idea is counter-intuitive for many of my clients, especially when society tells us to be strong and many parents tell their children to “get over” their feelings or “grow up.” Suppressing, or saying “no” to an experience that comes to you is, in my opinion, asking for more of that feeling over a longer period of time and may even lead to physical symptoms or illness.
Let’s imagine a sailboat to further understand the concept of “what we resist persists.” The universe (or chance if you don’t believe in something more spiritual) is the wind that blows the sail of our boat. Many of us keep our sail up until we are blown into rough waters and then we decide we don’t like it so we pull down our sails. That is the worst time to decide you want to resist what life has brought because a boat with no sail up isn’t going anywhere and is therefore stuck in the rough water! Put the sail back up and you may go a little further that way, but you’ll turn around and get back to peace faster.
So, say “yes” to your feelings and let them be as big as they truly are. That doesn’t mean acting them out (if you feel like yelling at a friend, you don’t act on that, but you do embrace and care for the experience of WANTING to yell instead of resisting or ignoring it).
Check back later this week for the other two lessons!