I was recently watching an interview with Brad Yates, author of A Garden of Emotions: Cultivating Peace through EFT Tapping, and he made the point that social media can have the inadvertent effect of making us feel pretty inadequate. It can slide us right into the, “comparison trap,” and we start to think that there must be something really wrong with us and our way of thinking. I sat right up and took notice when he said that, because it rang a major, huge, giant brass bell in my head.
What he was talking about was FaceBook, “positivity.” If we’re involved with the New Age or New Thought movements at all, we run into a LOT of positivity with our on-line friends. We get up in the morning, crank up our Internet Machines, and there’s a virtual blizzard of Spiritual Post-It-Notes. Things like, “I am SO grateful for this beautiful morning!”
Or, “I count my blessings with every breath!”
Or, “Healthy boundaries make for healthy relationships!”
Or, “Always live in an attitude of gratitude!”
And – as actual human beings – sometimes we feel like shit. In fact, sometimes we feel like shit a lot of the time. But we’re looking at all of these bright, shiny thoughts from all of these bright, shiny people and THEY don’t seem to feel like shit all of the time, or even some of the time, or even, for god’s sake, EVER.
Almost inevitably we slide into comparing ourselves to them and start thinking that there must be something really wrong with US. How come I don’t feel like a million dollars every single goddamned day the way that they do? I must be a really low-vibes, depressing/depressed human being because a lot of the time I hurt and I don’t feel very freaking grateful.
Of course, the truth of the matter is that if someone says that they’re grateful, happy, joyous and free EVERY SINGLE DAY, they’re either shallow or they’re a saint or they’re in denial or they’ve got some really, really good weed.
All right, granted, there are some people out there who really are happy most of the time and more power to them. Some of them were born with a basically happy disposition. Some of them have worked very, very hard to get into a place of grace and joy. I’m not denigrating or diminishing that at all.
Most of us, though, don’t wake up grinning every single freaking morning. For some of us life feels very much like the Nine of Wands tarot card: we’re still standing, we’re still upright and strong, but we’ve had the crap beaten out of us by life and we’re pretty wounded.
And that’s okay.
That’s where we’re at. That’s our starting point on the map for the rest of our journey.
Mike Dooley, who has done such wonderful teaching about manifesting and visualizations, often compares reaching our goals to setting a GPS in our cars. We feed in the information about where we want to go and then the gizmo just takes it from there. We don’t argue with it or second guess it – we just follow the directions. In the same sense, he says, we can just set our goals and then let the Universe take it from there. We don’t need to constantly obsess about the details (what he calls, “the poisoned hows,”) because the Universe will keep popping up new road signs and different paths to get us there.
Implicit in that, though, is the idea that we KNOW where we’re located at the beginning of the journey and we’re HONEST about it. If I’m in San Jose and I want to get to Phoenix, but I tell my GPS that I’m in Dallas, it ain’t gonna work out too well.
And, in just the same way, if I’m beat up, knocked down, drug around, and life has beaten the stuffing right out of my meditation pillow, putting up Spiritual Post-It-Notes about how grateful I am ain’t gonna work out too well.
Unfortunately, social media sites are generally piss-poor places to be honest about what we’re really feeling. It’s difficult to admit publicly that we’re NOT the Great and Mighty Wizard of Oz and there may be a lonely, sometimes sad, sometimes frightened person behind the curtain who’s just pulling levers. It’s especially difficult when so many other people seem to be doing so well. At least, all of their posts say they’re doing so well.
In a way – and perhaps a healthy way – this impossibly cheerful positivity has intensified since the start of the pandemic. People really ARE struggling with depression and fear and loneliness and we’re trying to encourage each other to stay in healthy, positive frames of mind as much as we can.
So it may be a good, temporary coping mechanism. Maybe we DO need to be as optimistic and up-beat as we can be, until we find our way out of this weird, scary virus maze. It’s what we used to call, “whistling past the graveyard,” and in this case the graveyard is very real and it’s got a half a million Americans in it.
Long term, though, simply pretending that everything is alright when it’s not, doesn’t really work. It doesn’t get us to our destinations because we’re not being honest about where we’re starting from.
Brad Yates went on to say that there are no such things as negative emotions. WOW! But . . . but . . . but . . . I thought I was supposed to be happy all of the time!
Repeat – there are no such things as negative emotions. There are no BAD emotions.
There are emotions that are uncomfortable. There are emotions that feel sad or that arise out of situations that are depressing or painful. But they are all our emotions, they are all part of our story, and they serve to tell us where we are before we take the next step in our journeys.
In 1967, Thomas Harris published a wonderfully cheery book entitled, “I’m Okay, You’re Okay.” In a nutshell, it promulgated the idea that we’re all just fine, we just misunderstand one another sometimes, and we should always remember that you and I and – gee whiz! – pretty much everyone is . . . well . . . okay.
To which Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, that amazing wizardess who spent a lifetime studying death and dying, replied:
“I’m Not Okay.
You’re Not Okay.
And That’s Okay.”
And it really IS okay. It’s right where we’re supposed to be when we take our next step on the journey.