“There’s no reason to cry, nothing to be sad about”;
“Ohhh, such a beautiful girl and crying - what a shame”;
“There are so many worse things happening to other people - you shouldn’t be sad/angry/resentful about it”;
“Don’t cry, everything’s ok”
Any of these sound familiar? If you are a human and reading this post, chances are you heard some of these phrases or variations of the same many times during your childhood and adult life. The society we grew up in fears negative emotion like nothing else and we tend to avoid and escape it ourselves and help our loved ones do the same at any price and as quick as possible.
But, let’s take a look at the following situation.
What really happens when you are passing a sad moment and crying, especially as a child, and an adult figure you love, trust and appreciate comes and tells you that “there’s no reason to cry, nothing to be sad about” when what you feel indeed IS sadness and tears are pouring out of your tiny eyes without you willingly forcing them to do so?
What happens in the internal world of the child who is having an emotional experience that is real and palpable and they feel it in every cell of their body and yet the adult human that they trust and see as a more knowledgeable guide tries to convince them that what they are feeling is not valid?
Imagine the confusion within the child. I shouldn’t be feeling this way, yet I do - therefore there is something wrong with me, something not acceptable. I should feel different. I should force myself to feel different, because they say that what I am feeling is not valid or good.
That’s how we first learn suppression.
Although the intentions of the adult figure in the example above are most probably positive and loving, the act itself brings a message of shame and guilt, invalidates the emotional experience of the child and teaches it to suppress their emotions and not trust their internal guidance system. It pushes the child from their heart space and body to the mind, asking them to rationalize something that is not meant to be rationalized. They may stop crying and calm down, but don’t let that calming down trick you into thinking that you really helped them. You actually made the biggest disservice that will haunt them for long years to follow. You literally asked them to distrust their internal voice, filter the emotional state they’re in through the rational mind and place their trust externally into your words and explanation of why their experience is not valid. You didn’t “change their mood”, although it may easily seem so, you just taught them to suppress and ignore their internal compass.
And that’s how we continue to go through our lives - using the same approach whether the person passing through the difficult emotional experience is ourselves or someone else.
When we feel sad or depressed and someone tries to deny our experience through either listing reasons why what we feel is not valid or through trying to forcefully push us into the better feeling state BEFORE we are ready to move on, before the emotions we are having are fully processed - we start to feel disconnected and alone. Alone in our current experience and invalidated for going through it.
It is a help that is no help at all, as it shows us that what we feel shouldn’t be felt and therefore there’s something wrong or bad with us for feeling that way. People with depressive disorders usually have a loud and pretty toxic inner critic that would not miss this kind of opportunity to wake up even more and start beating up the person for feeling the way they’re feeling what will consequentially make the person feel even worse - it’s not anymore just the heavy, dark feeling of hopelessness and malaise but also an added layer of guilt, feeling of inadequacy and incapability to jump from one emotional state to its opposite when that is exactly what their surroundings expect of them.
If you happen to have a friend or a person you are close to who is passing some kind of rough time, depression or simply a hard day - don’t invalidate what they are feeling. Don’t set as your goal to try to make the person feel better, stop crying or make them smile. Make it your goal to be with the person, to be with them in their feeling state and make sure they understand that is completely fine what they are passing through. That does not have to be expressed verbally - a simple hug and presence is enough.
In desperate desire to help someone in pain, we often worsen everything by constant chatter and going over memories of other people passing through the similar stuff. Even though it is often with the best of intentions - many times it just creates more distance. Be with the suffering one and give them your undivided presence and love. Validate their state by not trying to understand it rationally even though you may not really “get it”. Feelings are not to be “get” or “understood” but FELT. And that’s a huge one everyone still needs to learn.
If it’s just within you that you are struggling to find a loving place from which you can be present to yourself while in pain and passing negative emotional experience, try to bring a complete awareness to those moments. We are programmed to move as quickly as possible through “negative” and uncomfortable feelings, bulldoze through, numb them and run like maniacs to the other side of the river, but that is not really useful and if you stumbled upon this post, the chance is you already learned that through your own experience.
Stay in your pain, stay in your discomfort, feel it and bath yourself in love and light while experiencing it. There’s nothing wrong with you. Nothing you should feel guilty about. Nothing you should try to explain or understand. Surrender to the wave of energy passing through your field, acknowledging it, feeling it, without judging or attaching yourself in other ways.
Most of my life, when passing through hard depressive episodes, I’d make myself suffer the double ‘cause of the belief that what I was feeling wasn’t acceptable, valid or “explainable” by the rational mind. Still, it didn’t change the fact that I was feeling it. Other times, when the judgmental voice inside my head would get too loud to bear, I’d reach out for help but many times to the wrong people who would, instead of easing my way through the pain or simply being with me, add more wood to the fire of self-loath and self-negligence. Not out of evilness or cruelty, but simply because they didn’t know any better.
Society taught us to escape negative emotional experiences in any way we could think of, so that’s what we’re doing. But, guys, you cannot go anywhere before you REALLY acknowledge and experience where you’re at right now. Non-felt feelings come up to haunt you later, they resurface when you least expect them or grow denser through time and suppression and manifest as a physical condition and disease.
Next time you find yourself or someone you love going through rough emotional experience, remember it is just about meeting you/them there and bringing your loving presence.
Nothing to understand or rationalize. Nothing to push away or run through.