Our culture has developed the idea that we not only have the right to pursue happiness, but that happiness should be our constant, default state.
Life doesn't work that way, of course, but this misconception has still wormed its way deeply into our assumptions about life, often without us even being conscious of its presence.
This means that when life serves up its normal share of losses, betrayals, traumas, hardships, this deeply held misconception makes us think that there must be something wrong with us that we have deviated from the accepted norm of constant happiness.
As a result, we add a thick layer of shame over our "unacceptable" feelings to the grief, anger, pain, or sadness we are already facing. (And those around us will often do the same in their misguided attempts to pressure us back into an "acceptably" happy state.)
This shame becomes a sticky weight that clings to us and smothers us as we anguish over trying to figure out what is wrong with us that we are less than perennially happy.
Instead of helping us heal from whatever life has dealt us, it becomes an infection that interferes with our healing and makes the pain worse.
The truth is that grief is a natural, normal, healthy reaction to loss. Pain and anger and sadness are all a normal part of living. Our whole range of emotions are natural, normal, and a healthy part of life (even when some of those emotions are less enjoyable than others).
Yes, of course, there can be times when we wallow overly long in painful emotions, but it is less common than we often think. It's our unconscious push to never feel those emotions at all that causes us to think that normal spans of time spent grieving are wallowing when they really aren't.
In fact, the shame we have heaped on top of those painful emotions are more likely to extend the amount of time we experience them than anything else.
Bad days, pain losses, and hurtful experiences are a normal to-be-expected part of life, even though we'd rather that they weren't. Directly facing the feelings that come with those times without the overlay of shame will actually allow us to move through those painful times more quickly and with much less anguish.
Drop the shame and blame for what you feel.
There is nothing wrong with you for not being happy every moment of every day.
There is nothing wrong with you for feeling as you feel.
There is nothing wrong with you.
Questions to ponder
Take some time to think about the ways that this shaming shows up in your life (both self-shaming and shaming from others). What do those messages sound like?
What things do you say to yourself when you are in pain that lead to shame and feeling like something is wrong with you? What things do others say to you?
Notice your reaction to your own and to others' painful feelings. How comfortable are you with allowing those emotions to be as they are? Do you find yourself frantic to "fix" them?
What can you do to shift any amount of this cultural assumption about the need to always be happy and positive that may be in your own worldview? What would help you to make more space for painful emotions in yourself and others without feeling like something is wrong?
What shame are you currently carrying for whatever painful emotions you are experiencing? What would help you let go of that shame and let the emotions be what they are?
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