"Your joy is your sorrow unmasked" -Kahlil Gibran
Have you ever wondered why most young children are joyful most of the time and observed how quickly they move through emotions like sadness and anger? Without intending to, they are able, just naturally, to access deep feelings, move through them, and continue on their merry way - feeling good with the world and generally happy with themselves.
When we get older, we begin to do something unnatural to us without really intending to. We get rid of bad feelings by stuffing them down with the idea that we need to appear (mainly to ourselves) happy and 'together'. This can leave emotions festering that we didn’t know existed. They often take the face of anxiety, depression, or just a feeling of emptiness. We come to believe that there’s something wrong with not feeling fine all the time.
When emotions get stuffed down, they tend to pop up unexpectedly when they reach a boiling point. This can feel out of control, sudden, and just plain unmanageable. Because of the quick fixes that we have come to expect, we look for something that can cap the unpredictable emotions when they show up. We self-medicate in the form of subtle and not so subtle addictions - too much exercise, over-eating, under-eating, alcohol, pot, and so many others.
Usually the quick fix doesn’t work for more than a short time because it’s like putting a band-aid on an infection. You can’t see it but it’s not healing and the pain gets worse. It needs to be healed from the inside-out.
The upside - and there is a big one - is that facing the ‘unhappy’ feelings will ultimately lead to real, true, and lasting joy. So there’s a paradox here - you have to face the darker stuff in order to truly let the sun in. ‘I’m fine’ isn’t close to as good as it can get. Facing uncomfortable and sometimes even traumatic feelings is what frees us to be truly content as well as connected with others - not feeling isolated and separate from ourselves and others.
I’m not talking about wallowing endlessly in grief and despair. That would be torturous! No, I’m suggesting that touching down into the well of feelings we’ve been holding deep inside can be healing. As an added bonus, this can give us access to a real sense of joy and contentment.