Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life?

depression counselling brightonI’m a bit of a Grinch when it comes to positive thinking. When we are sad I don’t think it is helpful to feel like we always have to put a brave face on things.
When we are distressed or grieving, we might assume – sometimes quite rightly – that others cannot or will not tolerate the expression of our ‘negative’ emotion. As a result, we keep such feelings inside ourselves. People often describe pushing emotion down through the throat and into the stomach area, where it stays. The trouble is that held-onto feelings have a habit of either leaking out in the wrong places or being released in one big whoosh that is totally overwhelming for both ourselves and everybody else.
Many of us grew up in families and cultures where we learnt that it was unacceptable to show certain feelings such as anger, sadness or fear. Often, girls were not expected to show anger and boys were not expected to show sadness or fear. Sometimes, when for example anger was allowed but fear was not, we might have ended up learning to show the permitted anger when what we were actually feeling was fear. Effectively, expressing some feeling was better than not expressing anything at all. In later life, if we continue with this familiar pattern, showing anger when we are sad or fearful (or sadness when we are angry) is confusing for others and has the potential to damage relationships.
Not everyone is good at receiving other people’s feelings of sadness or anger. I believe that it is essential to be able to identify who might be in a position to help when things get tough. Being told to ‘cheer up’, ‘pull yourself together’ or ‘count your blessings’ when we are feeling miserable can often make us feel worse about ourselves; finding the right person to talk to is key. Also, friends and family who are normally very supportive might not always be able to help when we need them. In my own life I remember times when I wasn’t able to listen well to other people’s distress because, right then, I was too pre-occupied with my own stuff and I couldn’t take on any more.
If we feel able to express our sadness and anger in healthy ways (bearing in mind that it can be quite difficult to stay with someone’s distress if they are raging at us!), there is no need to bury such feelings and we are more able to get on with the job of enjoying life. Counselling and psychotherapy can help us uncover our real feelings and allows time and space to consider new ways of expressing emotion at the right time and with the right people.
Image courtesy of Gualberto107 at
Copyright – Caroline Clarke, Brighton and Hove Counsellor

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