There’s no getting around it: Life is hard sometimes. As humans, we often find ourselves overwhelmed with the intensity of our emotions.
Sometimes, we may even wish that we could be happy all the time. Wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t have to experience those so-called “negative” emotions at all? Then again, if we didn’t have negative emotions, would we even know what it means to be truly alive, or happy, for that matter?
In a powerful TED talk, “Why It’s Good To Embrace Negative Feelings,” psychologist Susan David discusses how the manner in which we cope with our emotions has the power to shape everything in our lives. Our actions, careers, relationships, health, and overall happiness are colored by the lens of emotion — whether we realize it, or not.
Susan argues that allowing ourselves to feel the “bad” stuff — from sadness and grief to jealousy and anger — enables us to live our lives more fully than if we ignore these emotions and classify them as “negative.”
“When we push aside normal emotions to embrace false positivity, we lose our capacity to develop skills to deal with the world as it is, not as we wish it to be,” Susan explained. As a psychologist, Susan often encounters patients who want to skip those negative feelings and just feel good all the time. “I just want this feeling to go away,” they tell her.
But it’s not that easy.
“I understand,” Susan says to these patients. “But you have dead people’s goals.”
The audience understandably giggles at this remark, but Susan forges on… and it makes perfect sense when she explains it this way:
“Only dead people never get unwanted or inconvenienced by their feelings. Only dead people never get stressed, never get broken hearts, never experience the disappointment that comes with failure. Tough emotions are part of our contract with life.”
While Susan’s sentiments are simple in theory, the meaning behind her TED talk is potentially life-changing for many of us. As a society, we do encourage a positive attitude, and we often don’t want to deal with the messy emotions that we all experience. Perhaps if we put more emphasis on being true to our emotions, we will be able to feel more empathy for those who are not always cheerful and easy-going.
“Discomfort is the price of admission to a meaningful life,” Susan says simply.
If we want to be alive — truly alive — we have to stop thinking that feeling nothing is ideal. We need to feel the emotions that bubble up during the course of our days, acknowledge these feelings, and move through them while honoring ourselves.
As Susan says, “You don’t get to have a meaningful career, or raise a family, or leave the world a better place without stress and discomfort.
Listen to Susan’s inspirational words below, and be sure to share to spread the word about emotional truth.