What feelings look like and other misadventures.

What feelings look like and other misadventures

“It’s better to be okay with not being okay than it is to pretend everything is okay when it is not.” – Anna Akana

“It’s better to be okay with not being okay than it is to pretend everything is okay when it is not.” – Anna Akana

Words to live by if you ask me. I used to do the opposite though. I used to pretend that everything was okay when things were not at all okay. Where did that get me? Nowhere. I used to feel ashamed for feeling sad. Especially when I couldn’t disclose why I felt sad. It was easier to joke around, to laugh even if it was phoney and I did go to bed crying. Maybe those who feel troubled for no distinct reason can relate, doesn’t it feel horrible when you have this conversation?

Person A: How are you?

Person B: I am feeling a little down if I am honest.

Person A: Ohh? What happened?

Person B: I don’t know. I just feel unhappy. There’s no reason in particular.

Person A: There has to be, you can tell me, it’s okay.

Person B: There is no justification. I am just sad.

Person A: …….*uncomfortable silence*

So to avoid all the icky conversations that followed I just found it simpler to stop having these conversations, I chatted about everything but this constant hopelessness. The side effects were not  immediate, but little by little I could feel it wearing me out. I found myself exhausted mentally after talking to my friends or family. I couldn’t go on like this. I couldn’t pretend everything is fine, not when nothing made sense. Mostly I am tired of being the person who makes me feel the worst. 

I read about all of this for a bit and came across an interesting piece of advice, sit with your thoughts and figure out what they are trying to tell you. They also included a fun little exercise anyone could try out if you have a bit of imagination. I decided to do it anyway. 

Try to separate the different emotions you are feeling. Sometimes you might only be able to perceive that you are upset, try to figure out if it’s anger or sadness or even fear and hatred. Sit in a quiet place and try to imagine what form that feeling would take. What would your anger look like, if it could have a physical form? I asked these questions myself and went full ‘Inside Out’. I realised that whenever I was feeling blue it was three emotions that were wreaking havoc. Sadness, anger and anxiety. I still wondered what they looked like.

Maybe sadness is a black sad blob with anime eyes. Maybe anger is a tiny, crystalline, red pyramid. Anxiety would look like a twitchy, purple fur ball. Now there are two more parts to this exercise. Find out what your feelings are trying to tell you and mentally figure out what you’d rather feel. So I pondered for a while and realised that the sad black blob reminded me of something, sadness was reminding me of all the times in past where I had gotten hurt by the people close to me. Sadness was there to remind me from making the same mistakes. Why was I angry all the time? My anger, the pyramid was there because I have a history of self-sabotage, I betrayed myself in some ways. So the anger is directed at me as a stop sign, a precaution to not mess up things for myself. What about my anxiety? Whenever things have been going good for a while, it didn’t take much longer for everything to go absurdly wrong. So all my anxiety was from the anticipation of the next bad thing I have to face.

For now, it seems like I have figured out what I was feeling and why I was feeling those emotions. Then comes the hardest part. What would I rather feel? I thought and thought about it. Also, I kept wondering do emotions work that way? Can we tell ourselves what to feel and change our feelings? At some point after what felt like long, long days I realised that I’d rather feel hopeful that the people in my life won’t hurt me than be sad about the ones that did in the past. I’d much rather be grateful for my friends and family, all these wonderful people who surround me rather than be all sad about the people who have hurt me in the past. I’d rather believe I had experiences in my past, that taught me valuable life lessons than staying mad at myself for my mistakes in the past. I’d rather learn from the mistakes I made and will make in the future than not make any mistakes and learn nothing at all. I’d rather be at peace with my present than be worried about the future. I’d rather be happy now than be worried sick of all the things that could go wrong.

Just because I figured out what I’d rather feel didn’t mean my feelings were replaced by the new ones. Far from that actually. But now when I start feeling sad, angry or anxious I start remembering what I’d rather feel. I have found it does help a bit. So when you are feeling upset for no reason, sad without explanation, angry for no cause, anxious for nothing, ask yourselves what are my feelings trying to tell me. Why do I feel this? What would I rather feel? Maybe you will find that jealousy is a green monster after all.

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