Thank God for That Feeling!

Really the optimistic and pessimistic views of life are both true and equally valid. This is what you figure out if you understand the Tao. Pessimism is a part of optimism and vice versa. Most of the time, it is the best of days and the worst of days, both at the same time. And that’s ok. That’s the Tao. The circle is completed. Once you realize that life is both wondrous and utterly horrible, often both at the same time, you feel greatly liberated and you no longer fear sadness or depression.

The main problem is that we are always trying to run away from our feelings. We have bad feelings and we run around like our the back of our shirt is on fire trying to toss of the flames of hell in our minds. This problem is compounded by therapists who too often try to get clients to stop thinking bad feelings and feel good ones instead. Problem is this does not really work. Say your marriage is breaking up. Even if you were in an abusive marriage, it’s still sad. And many people mourn the death of their marriage.

Usually a therapist will urge the client to not feel that way and instead be happy that the marriage is over. This is useless because the person is going to feel sad and mourn anyway. Clients should be encouraged to experience their bad feelings. Just sit and be alone with them. Meditate on them. If you are alone with your bad feelings for a while, often you get tired of bored with them and you don’t want to feel that way anymore. What really happened is you got the sadness or mourning  out of your system. If you run from it forever, you never get it out of your system. You have to stop running some time. And when you stop, here come your bad feelings, coming right up behind you. No matter how fast you run,  your feelings will always catch up to you.

Just as it is axiomatic that  you cannot run from your fears, similarly I doubt if you can run from your feelings. Feelings need to be allowed to come into consciousness, accepted and processed. After a bit of that, you may get tired of them, and now it is time to move along.

I have clients that are often dealing with a lot of unhappiness. I deal with suicidal people all the time. I have had clients attempt suicide on me right in the middle of a counseling stretch. I have already lost one client to suicide, but he was deeply depressed, had already attempted several times before, and when I first talked to him, he told me had a “suicide machine.” He had rigged up some sort of a device to give himself helium in order to commit suicide. Problem was it did not work very well.

The NHS in the UK really killed this man because they freaked out unnecessarily about his symptoms which sent him into a suicidal tizzy. He went away for a while and a few months later, I heard that three weeks after our last session, he was swinging from the ceiling of his home.

Increasingly I tell my clients who are dealing with sadness, depression and bad feelings  to just go ahead and experience that feeling. I say, “If  you feel sad, say ‘Thank God for that feeling!'” and you can go sit down somewhere and just get into the sadness of life, which is about 50% of it anyway. It is a legitimate part of life and it is ok to experience it without fear. The real problem is that people feel sad and start getting frantic trying to make the feeling go away. Go ahead and experience your feelings. They won’t bite. They’re yours. There’s no point running away from them if they’re yours.

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Filed under Depression, Mental Illness, Mood Disorders, Philosophy, Psychology, Psychopathology, Psychotherapy

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