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Why We Don’t Need to Feel Bad About Feeling Bad

Sad Man

“Feelings are just visitors. Let them come and go.” ~Mooji

I once thought that the goal of meditation was to reach a state of constant positivity, a natural euphoria in which a person simply does not get angry or depressed.

I think that a lot of people begin practicing meditation thinking that their teacher has reached this euphoric state of being. I have learned, though, that these negative feelings are never permanently banished from anyone’s mind.

As someone that has been struggling with anxiety and depression disorders since early childhood, I turned to meditation as a teenager as a means of treatment.

I assumed that one day I would master meditation and never feel depressed or overly anxious again. I have been practicing on an off for eight years and have completed a meditation teacher certification course, and guess what. I am still human. I still get angry, depressed, and anxious.

What meditation has taught me is that there is no such thing as a negative feeling. All feelings are natural and necessary, no matter how unpleasant they may be.

Instead of resisting your feelings and the circumstances leading up to them, accept them. Only after you accept your feelings can you let go and move on. Resisting and stifling your feelings only keeps them with you longer.

I realized this after reading The Secret by Rhonda Byrne.

I tried to do everything that the book said to do. Making lists of things that I was grateful for was easy, and so was saying “thank you” all of the time. One thing that I could not agree with, though, was the author’s assumption that negative feelings are a result of being ungrateful.

Even on my worst days, I am grateful for the life that I have. I am grateful for who I am and the people around me. My negative feelings are caused by a chemical imbalance in my brain, and listing things that I am grateful for doesn’t help because I already know that my life is good.

For some people, depression comes the same way as a headache would, and accepting the feeling and letting it go is much more effective than trying to stifle, resist it, or act like it isn’t there.            

Look at the Earth, for example. Should the Earth try to resist winter, simply because summer is more pleasant? Wouldn’t it serve the Earth better to accept winter, trusting that summer will come again?

If we weren’t meant to feel anything that is unpleasant, winter would not exist.

Nature is beautiful; think of blue skies, flowers, beaches, and hot summer days. Nature can also be scary. For example, volcanos, hurricanes, tornadoes, typhoons, thunder and lightning destroy towns and cities and kill thousands of people.

There is good and bad in everything and every person on this planet. You, like the Earth, are a Yin Yang. Do not feel bad about being angry or upset. Instead, celebrate the good things about you.

Accepting your feelings and letting them swallow you whole are two different things, though. That is where meditation comes in.

You sit there and focus on your breath, the sounds around you, and the present moment. If feelings of sadness arise, notice them, let them be, but do not attach yourself to the feeling.

Do not think, “I feel sad. I should not feel sad.” Instead, simply let the feeling exist, and before you know it, it will be gone. You are not your thoughts and feelings; they are simply experiences. Just because it is happening in your mind that doesn’t mean that it is a part of you.

Before I came to realize all of this, I felt bad about myself for not being able to reach this superhuman state of constant positivity that a lot of yoga and meditation teachers seem to purposely project in order to glorify their practice and attract new customers.

Your teachers get angry and upset sometimes, too; some of them just don’t want you to know it. The standard of constant positivity that I was trying to reach actually hindered my progress and made me feel worse after a meditation session.

If you are experiencing this, stop trying to be perfectly positive. It’s impossible. There’s no reason to resist your “negative” feelings, or feel bad for having them. You are a Yin Yang, as we all are—and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Photo by David Goehring

About Andrea Ulrich

Andrea is currently working on a novel, getting into blogging, and working at a restaurant. She is certified to teach meditation and believes strongly in minimalism.

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  • Louise Watson

    Brilliant article, and perfectly timed too! Just the reminder I needed today. Thank you!

  • Paul

    Did you ponder the idea of the earth “accepting” winter? You realize the earth causes winter, right?

    Also, you mention that winter is proof we aren’t meant to not experience unpleasant things, but people who like the cold probably wouldn’t say summer is too great, either.

  • Hi Andrea,

    I agree with the fact that all feelings are neutral. We just have to acknowledge it and move on. I believe there has to be a balance in everything that we experience. We cannot be too positive without experiencing some form of negativity as well. Any feeling to the extreme can lead to serious problems. It also brings me to the understanding that we cannot appreciate daylight without darkness. Hence, there has to be a balance at the end of the day.

    Edmund

  • Although it would be awesome, it’s not possible to be happy and positive all day, every day. You can’t make all the bad stuff go away, but you can channel it and use it positively.

    Batman is the best example for this – he is sad (inside) and angry (outside). However, he doesn’t use anger to break stuff or yell at people and he doesn’t sit around the house crying because he’s sad.

    He uses those negative emotions as a motivation – sadness of his parent’s deaths reminds him of his goal in life and his anger pumps him up temporarily so he can be the badass he is.

  • YES. Thank you. I’m so sick of positive thinking advocates positioning negative feelings as some kind of failing on the part of people who aren’t happy. If we treat feelings like weather phenomena–we may not like it when it’s -60 degrees Fahrenheit and windy as hell, but we know that one day it’ll pass–that’s so much better than shaming ourselves for not being the perfect happy people we “should” be.

  • lv2terp

    LOVE this message! Inspiring post, thank you for sharing your experience, and wisdom! I love the analogy you used…”Should the Earth try to resist winter, simply because summer is more
    pleasant? Wouldn’t it serve the Earth better to accept winter, trusting
    that summer will come again?” Beautiful! 🙂

  • Rituraj Burman

    Another beautiful and guiding article, Andrea as you said, ” You are not your thoughts and feelings; they are simply experiences….” very true. I think nature has every answer to our question. Keep writing.

  • Cat

    I had read somewhere that 71 percent of the The 100 Days of Happy participants give up before 100 days. Haha!

    Yeah…it’s totally OK to be full-spectrum, Folks.

  • Andrea Ulrich

    That whole Batman comparison is pretty good! :]

  • Andrea Ulrich

    Thanks for your input! I have never heard of the 100 Days of Happy haha :]

  • Andrea Ulrich

    Thank you! I definitely plan to keep writing! :]

  • Andrea Ulrich

    Exactly! It’s definitely not a failure to feel pain or discomfort! :]

  • Andrea Ulrich

    Yes, Edmund, balance is key! Thanks :]

  • Andrea Ulrich

    Thank you so much! I am glad you benefited from my article! :]

  • Clare

    Hi Andrea! I can totally relate to what you discussed here, and want to thank you very much for acknowledging something that I think is often forgotten in our current societal trend of ‘practicing mindfulness’. I find myself frustrated when some of the articles and supportive practices I read talk about how they figured out something key to their self-worth and then *snap*, everything is great and they are happy forever! Your message here is a wonderful one, and I hope you are in the start of what turns out to be a movement to accept ourselves exactly as we are. Thank you for a great article! 🙂

  • JMM

    Great article

  • Andrea Ulrich

    Thanks! :]

  • Andrea Ulrich

    Thank you so much! I am glad you can relate! A movement like the one you described would surely be a good one :]

  • I can SO relate to this. Every single word. I often catch myself thinking “I shouldn’t feel this way,” whenever I feel anxious or upset. I’ll try SO hard to make myself feel better or calm myself down, but really, all that does is compound whatever feeling I’m having that I want to go away. Interestingly enough, when I slow down and allow myself to fully feel the feeling, it’s not nearly as bad as when I actively resist it. Funny how that works.

    When I think about this topic, I’m often reminded of Rumi’s poem “The Guest House.” :

    “This being human is a guest house.
    Every morning a new arrival.
    A joy, a depression, a meanness,
    some momentary awareness comes
    as an unexpected visitor.
    Welcome and entertain them all!
    Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
    who violently sweep your house
    empty of its furniture,
    still, treat each guest honorably.
    He may be clearing you out
    for some new delight.
    The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
    meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
    Be grateful for whatever comes.
    because each has been sent
    as a guide from beyond.”

    So now whenever I feel an unwanted feeling I try to remember to welcome it, just as the Buddha invited Mara to tea — it may not be a guest I would have invited by choice, but if they show up I can at least show them a little courtesy 😉

  • “We cannot appreciate daylight without darkness”

    I love that! Reminds me of something I heard once about how we wouldn’t really appreciate the incredible feeling of a warm blanket or a hot fire if some part of us weren’t at least a little bit cold. It’s all about balance 🙂

  • Andrea Ulrich

    Yes, exactly! I love that poem, too. :]

  • Senaida

    thank you! this helped me a lot today!

  • All the more evidence that there isn’t really such a thing as “unpleasant” except in our own minds. I was talking to a friend the other day who absolutely loves being outside — in the south!– in the thick of heat and humidity. I’m FROM the south, but I can’t stand the humidity! So it really is in the eye of the beholder 🙂

  • Andrea Ulrich

    I am glad it helped you! Thanks for reading!

  • RichieNewRich

    Enjoyed your post! I wanted to go directly to your website from your author page but the link seems to not work. I’ll find you through Google. Thanks for the kind post!

  • Andrea Ulrich

    I don’t have my own website yet, but I will have one soon! Thanks for your interest! I am glad you enjoyed it. :]

  • Mary

    Thank you so much for this, I needed to hear this so much today. See where you’re just starting your writing & if that is so, please continue. Look forward to reading more from you…:-)

  • There is really nothing to gain from not listening to however we’re feeling at any point. Just honouring that sometimes it’s OK to be sad, tired lonely is a liberating thought, and remembering that ‘it will pass’. A really lovely post, thank you Andrea.

  • Andrea Ulrich

    Yes! Exactly! Thank you :]

  • Andrea Ulrich

    Thanks! I am glad it helped you! I will definitely keep writing :]

  • sid.

    This is a nice article

  • Andrea Ulrich

    Thank you!

  • marisol

    Hi Andrea, was just perfect timing to read your post when I’m going for a ten-day meditation retreat. It gave me a different perspective on understanding meditation and mindfulness..negative thoughts, feelings is to be experienced not to be set aside, it’s part of us being human.

  • Andrea Ulrich

    I am glad that the message got to you just in time! Thanks for reading! Have fun on your retreat!

  • guest house hostess :)

    Great article, thank you, and really helpful. I love that poem too. I hadn’t come across it before, so thank you so much for sharing it here. I am going to print it out. 🙂

  • marls4life

    this has been something i’ve really been working on. I never used to resist my feelings but ever since I started living with a suitemate who viewed being emotional as weak, I started to put on a happy face even though I felt really sad. It didn’t help at all, I just felt more sad and anxious. However one day, I just admitted to myself that I was sad and what I was going through felt really sucky and within five minutes, I was better. Now I realize how important it is to honor your emotions
    Also something that helps for me is interpreting my feelings or breaking them down. For example, lately I’ve been kind of jealous of my cousin and I’ve been comparing my life to hers. I tried to tell myself that my life was just fine and that I shouldn’t compare because look at all the good stuff that I’ve done but it just wasn’t working. I then asked myself “why are you feeling jealous when you know you shouldn’t?” and my reason was that after looking at all the stuff that’s she’s done, I was getting scared that I wouldn’t amount to anything. But once I admitted to myself that I was fearful, I came to accept that my life is not hers and we share different experiences

  • marls4life

    you’re totally right! Admitting to yourself that you’re feeling a certain way is like venting to a best friend about how you feel. Once you vent to them, you’re fine and everything doesn’t seem so bad.
    I’ve grown to realize that the best thing I can be is my own best friend