Embracing the Rebel

The world does not divide into bad and good. Stuff – actions, feelings, words, whatever  -fit much better onto a continuum than into plus and minus columns. There are a few things that are objectively good, a few things that are objectively bad, but basically there is a whole lot of other stuff in the middle. The idiomatic grey area.

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Very technical diagram

I’ve said this before, but anxiety is only a pain in the butt when it goes overboard. Most of the time, it serves a very important purpose. Most of the time. And there are a whole host of other things out there that get labelled bad guys when really they are just rebels that need a little taming. ‘Cause everyone loves a rebel, right?

Be it jealous, envy or embarrassment, there are lots of things we’d rather not feel, but that exist for a reason. Furthermore, like all physical and emotional aspects of humanity, they have evolved over time and because we needed them to keep going. (I did some reading about this here.)

Therefore, I’ve been paying a little bit more attention to my negative emotions and trying to get to know them. I’ve been treating them like the rebellious teenager I never was. (For this I do blame the bad guy anxiety: worrying made me boring) I’ve been listening more to negative feelings, rather than shouting them down.  I’ve been showing an interest in what bad feelings have to say, rather than trying to block them out or shout over them.  Most importantly, though, I’ve not been trying to turn them into something they’re not. That is, I’ve been working on accepting that sometimes I feel embarrassed, envious, shy or awkward, and I can’t magically transform these feelings into happiness, comfortableness or even neutrality. It’s a case of accepting the insurgent for who he is, embracing the rebellious qualities, and stopping to consider if I’d also suit a cat-dressed-as-the-devil tattoo.

Sound nice in theory but impossible in practice? Not necessarily. Compare option A and option B:

Option A

Oh, I just did something stupid. I hate that. And yep, yep, my face is all red. Again. Damn it, Helen. Can’t you just get a sentence out without looking like an idiot? 

Fast forward ten minutes… right, well if I do this, it’ll make up for it. And if I said this or had of said that, it would be so much better. So what I should do is head back and re-state that differently and it’ll make up for. Oh hell my face is still red. Idiot. Idiot. Idiot.

Options B

Oh, I just did something stupid. I hate that. And yep, yep, my face is all red. Again. Damn it, Helen. Can’t you just get a sentence out without looking like an idiot?

Well, yes actually, you can. You just said something that you think was embarrassing, but that doesn’t mean it’s always like that. And you only feel embarrassed because what other people think is important to you. And that’s okay. It’s normal to care about these things because it makes you feel accepted. Plus do you really value the opinion of people who want you to feel embarrassed? No. So, cool down that face, take a deep breath and try again. Embarrassment passes. Oh look. It passed. 

Yes, that was a silly internal monologue, but I hope it makes a point. A lot of negative feelings exist for good reasons. We want to feel accepted, valued, and taken seriously. That’s okay. It’s completely normal. And rather than trying to get rid of these feelings in the constant quest for happiness (it’s not a destination, folks), it might help to be a bit more accepting of the so-called bad guys. When you realise the root cause of some feelings comes from a good place, they’re not half so scary.

A lot of my thinking on this came from the article I mentioned above. They also included this quote, which I’ll share because it puts life far better than I ever could:

“If you observe a really happy man, you will find him building a boat, writing a symphony, educating his son, growing double dahlias in his garden, or looking for dinosaur eggs in the Gobi desert. He will not be searching for happiness as if it were a collar button that has rolled under a radiator. “—Bernan Wolfe

Feelings find you, not the other way around. Whatever might turn up hasn’t come so you can turn it into happiness, but it’s probably come from a good place, somewhere along the line. Because it really does comes from the line: the good guy/bad guy line that is fluid and flexible and full of rebels, of good guys posing as bad guys, just trying to keep you going.

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