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Hi and welcome. You are listening to the Happiness Hacks, formerly Stories from a Quest to Live Happier podcast — same format, just a different name — and I’m your host, Nancy Jane Smith. I’m a licensed professional counselor, and in this podcast, I share my stories, my lessons, and hacks I’ve learned, and I continue to learn on my quest to live happier. This is episode 57, The Slippery Slope of Emotions.
Hi, everyone. I’m excited to be here today to talk about emotions, feelings, that dirty F word that none of us want to deal with, and I’m guilty of this as well. It’s one of the things I definitely work on, and one of the keys I have found to living happier is acknowledging what it is I’m feeling. Recently, in one of the groups that I work with, we were talking about emotions and the slippery slope. How it feels when we start to feel, sadness or anger or resentment or any of those, what we consider to be yucky, ugly emotions, it feels like we’re heading down this slippery slope. Into this pit that we’re never going to get out of, and so we’ll stop ourselves from heading down the slippery slope, and we prevent ourselves from feeling the emotion.
You know, I think of the visual of someone that’s headed down into a hole, and they have all their arms and their legs are up kind of bracing themselves and preventing themselves from sliding all the way down. The ironic part of that is that bracing that causes us so much more pain. A couple of episodes ago, I was talking about how emotions are like the beach ball that we keep trying to push down into the ocean instead of letting it pop up and flow freely. I love these visuals because they help me figure out where I am in my desire and quest to allow myself to be more comfortable with feelings and emotions and whatever comes up. One of the things that that slippery slope implies for us is the idea that, “Oh, if I head down into that feeling, then I’m going to be stuck in wallowing and I’m going to be feeling sorry for myself or I’m just going to get stuck there.”
There are many reasons for this, for this feeling of, “Oh, I can’t go there because I’m going to get stuck there.” It’s very normalized in our culture that we’re supposed to be positive all the time and not be feeling any emotions and not be processing any negative stuff, so we are culturally pushed to be happy all the time. What happens, I think is that piece, that slippery slope, the fear of going down that slippery slope leads us to getting stuck and when we get stuck, something that is socially normed to be okay and something that is a little more comfortable for us because of the societal norm is we create drama. That drama creation is what prevents us from going down the slippery slope.
What happens is, we head down the slippery slope. Something traumatic happens. One of my easy examples was in my 20s. I was constantly, in a relationship and it’d be going poorly. I wanted to be in a serious relationship, and so I would be all upset about it, that it didn’t go well. Instead of feeling the sadness of that and the fear of that and the, “What if I’m alone,” and, “How am I going to do my life if it doesn’t work out the way I wanted it to?” and really sitting with those emotions of fear and sadness and anger and disappointment and all that stuff that came up; I would pretend that I was sitting in those emotions and if you asked me, I would have told you I was, but really I was sitting in drama. I was in my head constantly figuring out what I did wrong and what went wrong and what he did wrong and why it didn’t work out. There was all this analyzation and drama and feeling sorry for myself, but it was all in my head.
There wasn’t any actual acceptance of the emotion. There wasn’t any actual, “Oh, baby, this is hard. This breakup thing and this insecurity thing is really hard.” When you feel yourself heading down that slippery slope, the thing that is missing is a) permission, and I’ve talked about that in previous podcasts with just owning it, so just owning, “Okay, here we go. I’m entering into … I’m really feeling sadness. Here it goes,” so owning it, then the second piece of that, real acceptance and love for yourself of, “Oh, gosh. This is sad. This is painful. I understand I am resentful for this experience that I just had. That’s okay,” so giving yourself that love and acceptance will kind of cut that idea of, “Oh, if I go down the slippery slope, I’m going to be wallowing and I’m going to be feeling sorry for myself.” That feeling sorry for yourself, that wallowing piece is the drama. That’s when we’re in our heads.
Yes, we all know the people that we get tired of talking to because every time we talk to them, they’re discussing what’s going on, they’re discussing the drama that they have in their lives. We’re like, “Oh my gosh, I’m so tired of their negativity. I’m so tired of hearing about what’s going on.” That isn’t processing emotions. That is sharing your drama intellectually, intellectually analyzing and just that idea of watering your hurts. “I’m just going to keep bringing up the pain, never really dealing with it. I’m just going to keep bringing it up.” Someone might ask, “Okay, I get that. I understand the difference between the negativity and the being in your head, and I don’t want that, and when we head down the feeling of the slippery slope, that’s where we’re afraid we’re going to go, so really what’s the difference between what I’m talking about and that yucky mental drama gymnastics, you know, watering your hurts?”
For me, the big difference is love and acceptance. Someone who is the negative person at work who’s constantly talking about how everyone has done them wrong and creating drama, and being negative and judgmental about themselves and other people is missing the love and acceptance. When we pour on love and acceptance, that is when we’re like, “Oh. I’m feeling sad. Okay. I’m feeling sad,” and we allow ourselves to cry, we allow ourselves to journal, we allow ourselves to just express that emotion, just to name it and own it and not figure out why or is it justified or is it okay? Just to be like, “Okay, I’m angry today” or, “Wow, I am so resentful for how long my to-do list is compared to my husband’s.” We don’t have to justify that. We don’t have to explain it away. We just have to say, “Oh, there it is. There is that resentment. Oh, I hate feeling resentful. It’s really hard. Let me own how I’m feeling.”
Instead of creating a passive-aggressive argument with our husband because we’re resentful of the to-do list, to own, “I’m resentful of this. What can I do differently here?” That is difference, I think, in recognizing when we are headed down that slippery slope, to give ourselves permission to head down the slippery slope and not put up the brakes of our hands and our feet, and not brace ourselves for, “Oh my gosh,” and secondly, to give ourselves a lot of acceptance and love, and recognizing, “This is okay. This is just a feeling. This isn’t the end of the world.” But that monger in our head tells us, “Oh. No, you don’t, girl. Do not go down there. You’re going to be just like the annoying person at work that’s negative all the time, and no one wants to be around the negative. No one wants to hear it, so just keep sadness and your resentment and your anger, and just shove it, shove it, shove it so no one can see it.”
What happens is, we get with our girlfriends, and we create all this drama, and we analyze things, and we get all fired up in our heads, and we’re never really dealing with the emotions. Those are the moments when we’re eating a pint of ice cream not knowing what happened. We were having a perfectly good day and then all of a sudden we’re eating a pint of ice cream sitting on the couch, crying our eyes out. Yes, because we haven’t dealt with the emotion in a loving, kind way. Instead, we have stuffed it down, and we continue to stuff it down with the pint of ice cream or whatever it is.
For me, my thing tends to be food, but it could also be that you’re on the Amazon going online shopping or you’re buying a new purse or whatever the thing is that you do, and we all have them, that keeps us from really feeling and accepting ourselves and what’s really happening, and the recognize, “Oh my gosh. Here I am, and I’m eating this pint of ice cream, and I’m not hungry. Oh, babe, what’s going on? What do you need right now? What’s feeling?” Start naming those feelings that are coming up, and that has radically shifted things for me, when I can recognize, “Wait a minute. You are not hungry, and you’re eating” or, “You are not hungry” or, “You don’t need anything, and you’re shopping. What’s really going on here?” I can recognize that I’m trying to brace myself from that slippery slope.
The more we can be kind to ourselves when we head down that slippery slope, and we can feel, “Oh my gosh, we’re hitting into emotions,” the more we can give ourselves love and compassion and kindness, the easier it’ll be. Secondly, the more we can show up for other people and normalize, “Hey, what’s going on here? What’s underneath?” … When our girlfriend comes to us and is upset about her relationship, to say, “Wow, that must be scary not to know what’s going to happen next in your marriage” or, “That must make you angry to recognize that your husband’s cheating on you again.” To name the feeling instead of getting stuck in all that drama that’s up there.
When we can show up for other people and let them know it’s okay to be feeling things that aren’t always positive when we can do it for ourselves and we could do it for other people, the world will shift, I swear. We will have less drama and less negativity and all that stuff because we won’t be in that endless cycle of, “Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh.” We’ll really be talking about stuff that’s going on, that matters: the fear, the anger, the sadness, whatever that is, so I encourage you to head down the slippery slope. Just pull off the braces and just go down, and see where it takes and give yourself lots of love and acceptance in that process.
Okay, that’s the show. Thanks for listening. The Happiness Hacks Podcast comes out every week. Questions, please email me, firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can follow me on Instagram, @nancyjane_livehappier. Until next time here’s to living happier.
Weekly Ritual Segment:
One thing that has really helped me Live Happier is adding regular ritual practices to my daily life so each week I am going to be sharing a ritual with you and challenge you to complete it
Take a Social Media Break
Now and then I notice that I am spending more and more time on social media and a break is in order. So this week I challenge you to step off social media (FB, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.) Each time you notice yourself reaching for your phone or opening the website, take a deep breath and stretch. The goal is to get out of your head and into your body.
So because I am taking a social media break, I won’t be checking in with Instagram. I will be back next week though 🙂
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