Roadless Walk

The Shadows of Joy

everything is okay

This was actually the last thing that I added to this post. It’s only fitting to put it at the beginning because I want you to know that despite what the post is about, despite experiencing setbacks or emotions that seem like they’re out to get you, in the end… everything is okay.

You’re not always going to have a great day, it’s the simple fact of the matter. It’s the truth and you can’t force yourself to be happy when your emotions are the complete opposite. It’s difficult to write about happiness, motivation, and inspirations when you’re just downright the opposite!!! Heck, you may not even be able to shed light on anything. This is the low point, the part where you stare out the window for hours at a time with but 100 words into the post.

I’m a big advocate of reflections so this is a post about the state beyond happiness. It’s about unpleasant feelings, unhealthy emotions that are often shunned in society. It’s about envy, fear, frustration and the like. I know I post a lot about the happy emotions but I am human and I’m incomplete. I experience feelings that you experience and I’m here to help you work with them.

My Facebook page manager tells me I haven’t posted anything in 10 days and I apologize for that, I’d like to apologize to my followers. I know some of you look forward to reading my new posts. However, those 10 days have not been spent in vain. It was spent analyzing and reflecting on the roller coaster of emotions I’ve experienced.

I’ve come to realize this: emotions are not inherently negative or positive. When we say sadness or envy is bad or maladaptive and happiness is good, significant scientific studies suggest that this is not the case. Well scientific studies are complicated, why not watch the Disney movie Inside Out? Emotions we deem negative are only perceived as so because they threaten or challenge our ego. Let’s understand some of the core emotions that our generation is likely to experience today.

Envy or self-defeating behavior: Envy is about comparison. We witness qualities, possessions, and achievements in others that we desire for ourselves. It’s important to understand that we are different humans, we’ve been endowed with different qualities and we’re born into different family institutions. Envy can be healthy though if you compare yourself to others to find out how you’re doing. In psychology this is called upward social comparison (USC) or downward social comparison (DSC). USC is when we compare ourselves to others who are better than we are. DSC is when we compare ourselves to others who are less proficient than we are in any given task. DSC can boost self-esteem but that’s about it. I tend to lean more towards USC. Though we must understand that we are not trying to beat someone at their own game.

'...I can accept that bad things sometimes happen to good people. What drives me nuts is how all the good things always seem to happen to people I can't stand!'

Malicious Envy

This kind of envy, termed malicious envy is bitter and is aimed at making things equal. Remember that I said that we must accept our differences just a few lines ago? Malicious envy, the name says it all, is detrimental because it seeks to put others down in order to make ourselves better.

Benign envy is more constructive because we are striving to make ourselves better humans but not at the cost. Striving for greatness should be an end in itself not as a means to make someone else lesser. In this sense, envy prepares us to move toward something “better” or to improve our standing. It should helps us achieve goals that are important to us.

Fear (anxiety, nervousness, hesitation): Fear is a very selfish emotion because it attempts to protect our ego. At it’s most basic form, fear has been an evolutionary factor that has aided our survival; we tend to stay away from potential harm.Fear-Quotes-30 I don’t underestimate people’s fear of snakes, the dark, or heights. I’m more focused on the reluctance to take action because we are afraid of the likely consequences. This can be limiting; when you recognize that it is a perspective that’s preventing you from achieving your dream or a goal, fear can help us build confidence in order to strive for greatness.

Fear can also be exhilarating or thrilling. This is why we take on extreme sports such as sky diving or mountain biking. It helps us live in the present, it helps us discover the beauty of being human and the joy of living!

Moodiness: Not really a specific emotion but a shift in what we perceive as positive or negative emotions. I often view this unpredictable change in mood as a sign that there is an imbalance in your life that needs to be dealt with. swingsIt may be because you have persistent expectations that aren’t being met (which limits your ability to experience happiness or joy). You may experience moments of sadness or melancholy but your mind knows you can’t dwell on it and hence you see a spark of light for a brief moment before you’re back at square one. Aristotle would tell you to live in the mean between extremes, learn to see the gray in life. Moodiness can help us become better people because our emotions shift our focus to problems that may need our attention.

All this is to say that we must go beyond the mindset that emotions are inherently negative or positive. The whole range of our psychological states is crucial to a healthy mind and body. “Whether or not an emotion is “good” or “bad” seems to have surprisingly little to do with the emotion itself, but rather how mindfully we ride the ebbs and tides of our rich emotional life” (June Gruber).

I’ve written about our shadows before (those aspects of our personalities that we often hide or are ashamed of). I’m not asking you to be envious of others; I’m putting it out there that envy is an inevitable consequence of the comparisons we seem programmed to make (Christie Aschwanden). I’m not asking you to just move past some of your greatest fears. What I suggest is that we become aware of our shadows, to take the time to reflect on them. We need to ask the right questions and scrutinize our actions as well as our emotions. If you find that you are angry or resentful, really look deep within yourself to find out why. After discovering the answer, ask yourself how you can move forward from that and become a better person. What does being a better person mean to you?


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