On the last day of my Vipassana course, we took back our smartphones and turned them on.
As I scrolled down my Facebook newsfeed, I saw that my ex-boyfriend was in a new relationship. Our break up was still fresh, and the last thing I expected was to see him dating again so soon.
A wave of drastic emotion hit me.
I had the urge to cry, to shout, to be angry, and to wallow in pain. Nonetheless, I couldn’t. I had just finished a 10-day retreat. They had trained us how to properly respond to our inner reactions caused by outside circumstances. They taught us that we are the creators of every emotion rising inside our bodies. While I agreed wholeheartedly, I was adamant on lashing out.
And I did. I texted him, we fought, I cried, and I was miserable for the next couple of days. Then, it passed and I gained control over my emotions. However, I kept beating myself up. I felt like I had ruined everything they taught me in a matter of seconds.
It wasn’t the first time that this had happened.
Sometimes I could be happy for days, weeks, and months, but when something distressful happened and it got to me, I would give myself a hard time. I was determined to be constantly happy, and whenever I wasn’t, I deemed myself emotionally unstable.
We can yield to the pressure of being happy all the time. Happiness is a jewel that everybody wants to own.
However, maintaining happiness all the time is arduous. We can lie to others and say that we’ve attained a perfect state of mind and nothing gets to us anymore, but the truth is, we can’t lie to ourselves.
You see, the problem isn’t the flow of events—we can’t have control of everything in our lives. However, we can change the flow of our emotions and how we respond to those events. That said, we channel our focus into attaining happiness and most of the time we do it through eradicating the opposite emotions to happiness, like depression, sadness, suffering, and pain. When we fail to be joyful—or when we “ruin” it, like I did after my course—we beat ourselves up.
I’m not an expert, but I’m convinced it’s valuable to ask ourselves if we are trying to eradicate something that’s not meant to be eradicated. Perhaps, there’s another way to attain happiness—and it is through attaining its opposite first.
Sometimes we have the urge to cry, to overthink, to overanalyze, to be sad, to be regretful, and we oppress it because we feel we should be happy. In our attempt to be happy all the time, we make ourselves utterly unhappy. The problems in our lives aren’t the issue. The main issue is the oppression of self-expression which brushes our pain under the rug.
This is why we all struggle to be happy.
We’re simply trying to be content in moments when we shouldn’t be. Can you eat when you’re not hungry? Can you exercise when you’re dead tired? What we call our “dark side”—that which contains our negative emotions—is meant to be there. Perhaps it is there because it is the only bridge that leads us to our brighter side.
Sadly, we have made this darker side a problem. We have sectioned emotions into good and bad. There are a range of emotions that rise in our bodies as a result of outside conditions. Perceiving our emotions as one entity helps us to stop trying to achieve full happiness and to avoid sadness. The truth is, we want happiness badly. Happiness has turned into the lottery we’re not winning.
I’m convinced that genuine happiness knocks on our door only when we’re keen on opening the door to sadness as well. To experience happiness, we should allow ourselves to experience its opposite.
It is not that we should dwell in sorrow, but we should allow it to be when it is present. We shouldn’t force ourselves to be happy when we’re not. Personal suffering mustn’t be oppressed because the fact is, the more we oppress it, the more it flourishes. Like I learned in the Vipassana course, we gain control over our emotions, but only when we’re ready.
We’re not being less spiritual or less than a human being by allowing ourselves to be sad—in fact, you are spiritual and more human than ever. Genuine spirituality is to be yourself at any moment, no matter what this moment brings you in experiences and emotion. Spirituality isn’t about clinging to the “good” moments—it’s about feeling the good and bad.
I am a happy person with all the pain inside me. I embrace it and I let it be. I don’t dwell on it. I don’t let it take over me. But I allow it to be for a few moments, few days, or a few weeks. Whenever I feel the opposite of “good” feelings knocking on my door, I let them in, and I await their departure. The truth is, they will dissipate and when they dissipate, happiness comes in. But, at some point, my happiness will also dissipate. Happiness and unhappiness are a cycle and one can’t exist without the other.
Today, I ask you: Be gentle with your emotions because your emotions are okay the way they are.
Allow yourself to descend. It’s the only way to rise.
Author: Elyane Yousseff
Editor: Lieselle Davidson