Life isn’t always sunshine and roses

Life should always be rainbows and daisies, sunshine and roses, right? – happy, smiling faces, sunny days, exciting experiences, parties and good times.

After flicking through social media profiles you would be excused for thinking that just about everybody is happy…. all the time. It’s almost exhausting looking at all that happiness. You may wonder “How do people manage it?”

The truth is they don’t. By default, being human means that we are going to experience negative emotions about half the time – every single one of us. Even the most successful, beautiful, wealthy people in the world still suffer through their share of pain and negativity. Most of us have just gotten really good at hiding it from the world and even from ourselves.

Unfortunately this mass self-deception is having some pretty dire consequences.

Because of this intense drive to be positive all the time, when people suffer through a negative emotion they think it must be some kind of mistake, they think it shouldn’t happen at all. We all have this unrealistic belief that our lives should reliably give us exactly what we want all the time, right now. And if it doesn’t we must be doing something wrong, or worse, that there is something wrong with us.

So instead of feeling negative emotions we have trained ourselves to become incredible escape artists, masters of distraction. We use food, the internet, Netflix, alcohol, drugs, work and shopping to distract us from our emotions. We avoid them at all cost. The result – an epidemic of overeating and obesity, soaring depression rates, alcoholism, compulsive shopping and an insecure attachment to our electronic devices that keep so many of us glued to screens.

But life isn’t all about being happy all the time – in fact we shouldn’t even want it to work that way.

Just for a minute, imagine what it would really be like to have no negative emotions, to walk around feeling abundant and blissfully happy all day long, every day. It would be, well…. ordinary. It would stop being joyful. Just as we need dark to experience light; noise to appreciate silence; we need negative emotions to juxtapose the positive ones – unhappiness to feel happiness, sadness to feel joy.

Without negative emotion we would also lose much of what drives us to challenge ourselves and grow. If we deny the range of human experience we inadvertently confine ourselves to a small, cramped corner of our lives ignoring what it truly means to be human, ignoring our possiblities. How sad would it be not to reach your full potential because you were too afraid to experience an emotion?

But if we can accept that about 50% of the time our experience of life is going to be somewhat negative the possibilites for life open up. We will come to understand that some things will be hard, that some things will take work and others will cause pain and that is OK. If you think about it, it is actually quite relaxing that life doesn’t have to be rosy all the time. It takes the pressure off. We don’t need to always be smiles and positivity. We don’t always have to be in a good mood or on the top of our game. We are just human, and humans have their ups and downs. All of them. Embracing negative emotion makes it so much easier to accept ourselves. It also makes it so much easier to accept others – our partners, children, family and friends. It gives us permission to play, to experiment and grow.

The great news is, it is possible for anyone to embrace all that life has to offer, both good and bad. You just need to learn to accept and feel your emotions and stop numbing yourself by avoiding them. Then you can step more fully into your life and experience it head on and feel the suffering and pain along with the happiness and joy. Don’t numb yourself from experience, embrace it – life is amazing.
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