I keep seeing an article from Scientific American pop up in my Facebook feed. The title says it all - "Negative Emotions are Key to Well-Being". And here we are (in the southern hemisphere), moving into autumn when thoughts have a tendency, perhaps, to become a bit darker, emotions a bit heavier - not coincidentally morphing in this way as summer fades away.
Speaking from experience, fall and winter can be particularly challenging times of year for those who tend toward depression and for those who live with them. Over decades with chronic depression, I have often heard comments like these from people in my life: "Cheer up. You have so much to be thankful and happy for." Another favourite is something along the lines of, " Just think positively. It will get better soon." This advice, although well-intentioned, has a way of sending a different message to the listener - "You're feeling this way in life because you're not positive or grateful enough." And so it becomes just another way that you feel you've failed and that you aren't good enough. Here's another "F" on your life's report card.
There can be tremendous pressure from friends, family and society as a whole to be positive. There seems to be a consensus that only positive thoughts are OK and only happiness is acceptable. Think about it, don't we want to help those who feel depressed by showing them how to be positive again or by showing them they have so much to live for? In other words, by changing how they are in some way? We've somehow bought into the idea in our Western world that the negative is not to be tolerated, that it needs to be dealt with and buried once and for all. Perfection is synonymous with happiness. And it shows up in the small things, like having to put on a smile in public because only a smile will do. Or in the way that: "How are you?" must be followed by "I'm great. Thanks."
We all buy into it. We all want to be happy. This is normal human nature and there's nothing wrong with it. There's also nothing wrong with wanting the best for those we love. But, as this article is suggesting, we need to feel all of it - the dark and the light, the smooth and the rough, in order to really be here fully. We don't have to make these so called negative thoughts and emotions go away. What I have found to be far more potent is the ability to sit with and welcome all emotion, all thought, regardless of the ego's tendency to prefer one over another. When I can be with ALL of this, feel all of this, experience all of life's ups and downs as the Presence it which it arises - then I am truly empowered. I am not overcome. Life is simply living itself through me, and I find that there is room here for the totality of it, just as it is.