Emotional Resilience Blog from The Fear Course

The latest research, realisations and thinking in the world of emotional resilience, anxiety and fear reduction from around the world.

The happiness fallacy and the wisdom of sitting in it.

The happiness fallacy and the wisdom of sitting in it.

In the last few weeks I have been a bit 'flat'. Not happy but not depressed or anxious, just flat and down. The kind of feeling that things aren't going the way I want them too, that I'm not getting traction on the projects I am working on. This has been accompanied by strong sense of frustration and I have been questioning my direction and what I am doing. I suppose I would describe it as a downer or feeling low.


I'm normally a pretty high energy kind of person, motivated, productive and active in my field so the change has been quite marked. The interesting thing has been the reaction of my family, friends and colleagues. Many of them have, out of love and good intention, focussed on getting me 'out of it'. There have been a legion offers of cakes, trips out, motivational talks, sympathy, and a myriad other ways to help. I learned sometime ago not to run from these emotions, not to try to artificially fix them. When I have explained that 'it's ok i just need to sit in it for a while' most, who know me smile and realise I don't need to be fixed. For some others there is a shake of the head and bemusement as to why I wouldn't want to be pulled out of the trough I am in. Others who know me less well others ignore my "it's ok, I will be ok, sometimes you just need to be where you are' and switch into fixing it mode with a vengeance despite my protestations.

As I am frequently explaining, emotional resilience is not the absence of feeling, as is a common misperception, it is almost the opposite. It is the ability to feel, recognise those feelings and bounce back. There is another aspect to emotional resilience however and that is not being afraid of our emotions. Having the ability to recognise and observe the emotion without feeling the need to run away from the emotion or to fix it.

The thing about a trough is that you must have had a crest before it and there will inevitably be a another crest on it's way. Such cycles are not just a part of life but they have a reason for being. I am in an emotional trough because of patterns of thought which, if I allow them to be and observe, point to the fact that things aren't quite going as I wish. Listening to that message is important as it usually heralds change. Sitting in it and observing it means that I am starting to see what are called the emergent properties or patterns in the reality I am currently in. These emergent properties are showing me the way to the next change. I am starting to see my 'where next'.

There is a happiness fallacy that we need to be happy all the time and downers or troughs are to be avoided at all costs. As long as the downer doesn't turn into negative rumination about the emotion which can lead to feelings of hopelessness and become habituated as depression, as long as you just sit in it and observe, a process known as decentering, you turn the situation into a positive and productive episode. In years gone by, I would have pulled myself out of it or gone into a depressive episode.

I am already starting to see the patterns or the emergent properties in this trough. It is just an emotion, nothing to run from or avoid. The emotion is there for a reason and if you watch carefully, that reason or reasons will become apparent, leading the way to new ways of doing things, new things to do and new ways to be. It's called learning and growth. So I am very happy to be down!

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