When is Feeling Good a Guarantee that You will Feel Bad?

I try to feel good every day. Call it happiness, peace, contentment. I just want to feel good. For a few hours and maybe even a few days, I feel good.

But. Then. Life. Happens.

I want to feel it all of the time. So I exercise. I communicate. I work hard. I set goals. I strive to be healthy. I practice acceptance, awareness and openness to what is. But I can’t seem to avoid the pull back to my addiction to feeling good.

Monday mornings. The stack of projects is bigger. You can’t seem to concentrate or feel confident. Anxiety mounts up and you feel “off.” At home your kids won’t cooperate with your plans and you find yourself yelling at them. You feel criticized, undermined, neglected, untrusted by your partner. Clients… staff… kids… partners… (and yes, even yourself)… are never satisfied.

That good feeling.

I want to feel it all of the time. So I exercise. I communicate. I work hard. I set goals. I strive to be healthy. I practice acceptance, awareness and openness to what is. But I can’t seem to avoid the pull back to my addiction to feeling good.

My stuff…

The other day, I was listening to a meditation. The voice on the other end of the recording said something that irritated me. Meditations aren’t supposed to do that. We are supposed to feel more peaceful, but I felt more pissed.

She said, “This is not to make you feel better, but to make you better at feeling.” Sometimes I don’t want to feel my stuff. I just want to feel good. I don’t want the rest of it. I want to float through, on the surface, not yanked by the currents, and certainly not having to look at all of the other stuff deep below.

Awareness doesn’t make your stuff any better. It just makes you more aware. It can teach you more about who you are and sometimes you will feel more grateful. I like the grateful stuff. But awareness won’t make you feel good all of the time. Nothing can do that.

Well, unless you are high. Or drunk. Or numbed out on food, work, working out or all of the other compulsive things you can think of. But then reality hits. You only feel good for a while. And then you crash. You face the tall, the dark and the nasty music of whatever happens after you leave your reality.

Willingness?

Awareness doesn’t make your stuff any better. It just makes you more aware. It can teach you more about who you are and sometimes you will feel more grateful. I like the grateful stuff. But awareness won’t make you feel good all of the time. Nothing can do that… Well, unless you are high. Or drunk. Or numbed out.

I grew up living with eyes shut, turned away, turned off, tuned out. The hard stuff does not make me feel good. Being willing to see whatever is there is the hard stuff for me. It means keeping my eyes open.

It’s way easier retreating into not seeing stuff. But then the depression hits me, the anxiety, the attention and the forgetfulness. I have wasted years trying to forget my way through my life. And it just ends up getting harder.

I don’t have to drink myself or get high to lose myself. I have so many more “healthy” behaviors that I use… and that use me. I lose myself in my work. In busyness. In the minutia of my life. Somewhere deep inside my mind. Far away from my real feelings and from my reality.

It’s become a little easier to wake up. Age and recovery have helped me. Usually it only takes me a few days. Reentry back into my life never feels good. I am confused. Uncertain. And a little shameful because I know I have hit the big red Exit button like my very life depended on it. I realize that for days I forget, I procrastinate and the guilty feelings of not following through on what I promised mount up.

Sitting with my stuff doesn’t make it better, but it does some important stuff. I realize that this stuff, the stuff that I stuffed is part of me. Learning self-compassion and awareness has helped me to be a little more accommodating of my stuff. A little more compassionate and a little more patient – both for myself and for others. And I am a little better at being silent.

The stuff that I push away usually has something to say to me, something to say about me. The parts of myself that I push out of consciousness are important parts too. Memories, feelings, parts of my identity that make me feel more human. This stuff rarely feel good, at least at first. But nothing does. If we could remember that far back, being born probably felt pretty shitty at first (literally… and emotionally).

I cannot control my life or emotions enough to feel good all of the time (or even most of the time). The more I try to hold onto feeling good, the more it pulls me away from myself and from the people I care about. Honestly, I hate this part of recovery.

Feeling good is a goal that is difficult to reach. I don’t know about you, but I have to admit that I cannot control my life or emotions enough to feel good all of the time (or even most of the time). The more I try to hold onto feeling good, the more it pulls me away from myself and from the people I care about. Honestly, I hate this part of recovery. Being willing to feel bad, to feel off… and even to feel awful.

Feeling stuff causes my mind to chatter, smooth yet slickly sick. I won’t lie to you. Being aware doesn’t make you feel more alive. Who want’s to feel shitty? Or so depressed that you are frozen under the heavy chains of despair? Or so anxious that you can’t think straight? Being willing to feel my stuff, the whatever comes up stuff, makes me open. Feeling alive is one of those code words we throw around today. It’s another way to say that we feel happy, we feel good.

The different kinds of stuff that comes up for us and what we can do about it

a| The deep-down-inside-stuff that gets stuffed even deeper down inside. This can be a fear of failure or fear of success. The seemingly spontaneous messages your mind tells you that you are a fraud, that you can’t live without a drug or without your abusive boyfriend.

b| The not-seen stuff that ends up screaming at you because you refuse to look at it. This is a little different than the deep stuff. Things that we don’t “see” can be our own weaknesses, our faults and how we impact those we care about. Feedback can be a real pain in the ass.

c| The hard-stuff that doesn’t have a quick solution and keeps coming back. Again and again. Stuff that is not really in your control (like other people, what they do, how they react, and what they say).

d| The whatever-stuff that randomly comes up throughout your day. Feelings, thoughts, memories that can pull you off track.

e| The control-stuff. This stuff can drain so much energy and attention that we have nothing left. We lose ourselves when we try to control how we feel or what we think, how other’s feel or think, or the various circumstances that kick us when we are down.

f| The important-stuff, which can be tough to figure out sometimes. What is important may not be the buried-stuff or deep-stuff or the whatever-stuff. The important-stuff usually is found in the grateful, the awareness and in the not-seen stuff.

g| The sitting-with-my-stuff stuff. Learning to sit with stuff without having to fix, or fixate on it. This is tough stuff.

h|The grateful-stuff. Gratefulness is hard for me. Griping is way easier. So is giving in or giving up. But where’s the fun in giving up?

For part 2, “4 Things I Have Learned Over a Lifetime of Getting Stuck on Trying to Feel Good” see tomorrow’s post.

• • •

If you found this piece interesting, I invite you to read a related article 10 Things I Accept About 2017.

If you like what I have to say, you can sign up for my blog and please share my work. And if you want to go the extra mile, click here to vote for my page on Psych Central’s list of mental health blogs.

Keep it Real

Photos by Aritra Sen and Jonathan Kos-Read


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