I was coaching a client yesterday.
She is going a major life transition, and she was judging herself for her naturally occurring feelings of grief and unhappiness.
Somewhere along the way, in all her years of personal development, she picked up the message (like most of us do), that she was supposed to be happy all the time. No matter what.
There was something wrong with her for being human…
Haven’t we all felt this way?
I call this the Tyranny of Positive Thinking.
Is positive thinking the answer? Not always.
Not all valid perspectives are happy perspectives.
Healing takes time. And if we want to help our friends and clients, we MUST respect the life cycle of grief.
I hear helpful suggestions from my coaching peers, and I also hear an undercurrent of judgment against negative emotions and those who have them.
I suspect many people stay stuck because their grief was never validated.
I think I’ve mentioned here before that I was hit by a car and landed in a coma when I was 16. I came out of the coma (obviously) and spent the next year and a half reading every book, taking every class, and trying every absurd exercise imaginable to get over the sleep disorder and deep depression that followed my brain injury. I was surrounded by well wishers telling me to “be more spiritual” or “turn it over,” like something I was doing or not doing was the problem!
I believe in a higher purpose or opportunity hidden in tragedy. I may never know what it is, but I choose to believe it’s there.
I my never know the cosmic “why” behind car accident, but I do know that the event knocked me off my arrogance-of-the-happy high horse (though I climb back from time to time) and taught me to have more humility and respect for the mysterious workings of human experience.
The psyche is more complex than we tend to acknowledge in our personal development community.
Let’s pause before we make bad feelings (and the person who feels them) wrong, unhealthy, or morally inferior to happiness.
Yes, we want to help! But first do no harm.
In fact, I call all those periods of grief, anxiety, shame, frustration and failure, my Research and Development into the human experience.
They equip me to understand and help others.
I think the purpose of life is not necessarily to be happy, but to pursue happiness. Like the sunflower grows by reaching towards the sun, the pursuit of happiness is the vehicle for our unfolding.
Perhaps the greatest gift we can give is to respect another person’s experienced reality before we try to move in and “liberate” them with our own.
And you know what? The moment my client gave herself permission to hurt, she felt better!
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