December 04, 2018

Feeling Sad is Good, Feeling Bad is Not

Negative emotions are a part of life.

Choose wisely which one you use. You may be going through a downturn in your life. You’ve lost your income source with more money going out than coming in. You’ve lost your job. You’ve lost someone you love.

You feel bad. Everything aches. You walk slowly and your shoulders are slumped. You’re frustrated. You’re mad. You’re angry. You know these feelings don’t help, and you know everything will turn around, but you keep feeling bad taking up precious energy that you need to fix the problem.

You need to review your emotions and find out which one is making you feel this way. This is what will happen. You can’t be mad at anyone because the event happened out of your control. You can’t blame anyone because the situation required people to do what they had to do and not because of you as a person. Most of all, you can’t be angry because this emotion is defined as feeling slighted or wronged by someone. You as a person is not the problem. The situation developed that is no longer sustainable. On the surface, anger is a common response, but deeper exploration shows the situation is untenable and irreversible. You can’t be jealous, envious or resentful because this issue is about you and not about anyone else. But, you can feel sad, and it’s comforting.

You can feel sad. This is a good thing. First, it’s only a single emotion – no need for being mad, no need for anger, and no need for being overwhelmed by thinking you have all of these bad feelings. Second, sadness is always temporary and will go away. Third, most importantly, sadness is defined as the loss of something which means you can replace the loss either with the same thing or with something else. You can develop a new way to make money, you can find a new job or create a new business, and you can keep your loving feelings at the same time as you go forward to find new love.

With a loss, keep in mind that you may go through the five stages of grief that include (1) denial, (2) anger, (3) bargaining, (4) depression, and (5) acceptance.  The stages will occur with varying lengths of time, some a few hours or days, while others may last longer. The anger stage is an especially dangerous time because of the harmful effects for you as well as for others. It’s important to analyze the situation at the second and third degree level to realize the situation was not personal, nothing could have been changed and create a distraction to move on. The depression stage is also a harmful time. It can be useful to recognize that this stage is temporary, and will soon lead to resolution and acceptance.   

Call to action: Going through a downturn? Review your feelings. Eliminate all of them except sadness. Feel sad about the situation. It’s comforting, temporary and you will move on to better things than ever before.

Gary R. Epler, M.D. at Epler Health

Boston 

Best-selling author of "Fuel for Life" and "Peak Performance Leadership"

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