There's a question an interviewer oftens asks a successful business person or celebrity: "What would you tell your younger self?"
Just the other day, we walked to our neighborhood lake and saw a pre-teen boy fishing from the pier. Alice asked me, "What would you tell your 10-year old self?"
I said, "I would tell him, 'Don't cling to good things or negative things. They will all come and go. Acknowledge them with either pleasure or curiosity, but know that few things will be permanent.'"
I hope that doesn't sound too stoical or, worse, fatalistic. I have a tremendous belief in the goodness of creation and people (especially when they are conscious and intentional of what they say and do).
But the self-work I'm doing these past years has taught me to sit with negative emotions and know that they will pass; that clinging only leads to tangling and tangling leads to self-induced suffering. Who wants that?
Recently, two members of an online group I belong to lost their wives. The post-mortem sharing of their love, loss, grief and nascent healing has been nothing less than inspiring.
What I know is that if we want a life of deep significance, genuine love and emotional strength, it’s going to involve the entering fully into discomfort, pain and loss.
Just as the 60s era philosophy of "If it feels good, do it" was hedonistic, a similar and equally harmful thinking has been born of the pandemic: “If it feels uncomfortable, make it stop.” The underlying sense is that feeling bad is wrong.
Wrong. It's just a feeling. It will pass.
Here's the thing. You can use a "bad" feeling to significantly boost your growth. Don't pass on the learning. Find out what the feeling is coming from, what it is doing to you and what you can do about it (the situation, not the feeling).