When we get crazed, we start to live in a negative world that is filled with sadness, remorse, dread and anxiety. It is natural, it is part of life, and it would be really foolish to imagine that we could go through life without being in any one of these places, for at least a little time.
So given the fact that it is natural and normal to be in these places, we need tips for what to do when we are IN them. I know there are thousands of tips on how to get out of the negative states, but I don’t recommend it. As you probably all know by now, getting out of negative states takes a lot of work and often, can’t sustain it, isn’t even possible. It takes a tremendous effort to be positive when you’re not feeling it, and often it’s not even worth it.
Chances are, if you have a stressful life or you had big gulps of unhappiness as a child, you have good reason to be in a negative state. When you have some free time at some point, you can certainly use your negativity to get to know yourself better — negativity always provides the most positive impetus to get to a more positive place. But for now, since you have enough on your hands with the Holiday season, here is how to manage with all the negative feelings you are having now, so that your bad holiday season doesn’t turn into a complete disaster.
- Fake it. Your children, your spouse, your parents, in-laws and siblings probably don’t want to know how negative you are feeling at this time of year, unless you are lucky enough to have one of them be in such a good place that they can take it. But most families can’t. So you have to fake it.
Ironically, the ONLY way to fake it is to have someone around that you CAN complain to. This person has to be fully apprised of how miserable you really are. Otherwise, if you don’t have such a person in your life, please don’t fake it. It’s not healthy to feel totally alone in the world – it can be devastating to your physical as well as emotional health. So, if you have noone in particular to complain to, just complain out loud to everyone and let them deal with it.
- Romanticize your misery. We tend to frown upon our negativity, which is a feature of our current society’s sincere effort to deal with all the negativity we are increasingly more aware of. Read sad poetry, see movies that involve tragedy, and take long showers where you can have a good weep. Crying is very, very good. Ranting is also good, provided the person you rant to is gentle with you. Unhappy spouses should reach an agreement to allow each other rants at this time of year, and agree to respond with nice pats on the back, cups of tea or just by listening.
- Monitor your self-dislike. For some reason, whenever we are sad, agitated, disturbed or angry, we don’t like ourselves. Don’t ask me why having negative emotions and not liking yourself go hand-in-hand, but for most of us, they do. It takes a lot of work to separate negative feelings from self-dislike.
The most difficult part of extricating negativity from self-dislike, however, is recognizing it. We often don’t recognize our self-dislike. We recognize that we are ashamed of ourselves, that we wish we could be different, that we are too negative, that we are not likable, that we are faulty and a million other things. But because we believe these things to be true, we fail to realize that these are just normal symptoms of self-dislike that kick in if we have negative feelings. So study yourself, and monitor the thoughts that you have if you should happen to be in a negative state. In fact, give your self-dislike a rating from 1-10. This helps you see it and come to terms with it better so you can try to reign it in a bit.
- Appreciate the function of negativity. Usually, we get into negative states because we are not comfortable with what we feel. It is completely impossible to be totally comfortable with much of what we feel. And why should we be comfortable with negativity towards people we love? We want to love them! Little mental wars happen when we experience unwanted negativity, so that we lose sight of how important negativity can be as an information-system. Negativity teaches us about blind spots in the people we love, about problems that need work, about areas for needed growth, about dissatisfaction that needs to be addressed and about another hundred thousand million important things. It’s a highway to new places. Figure out how let it take you places. (Not now, but after the holidays are over. For now, just stick to 1-3.)
- Take care of yourself. Because we don’t like ourselves when we are negative, we tend to forego basic necessities like eating right, relaxing, and being nice to ourselves. We become very punitive towards ourselves and others, admonishing, feeling unworthy or lazy most of the time, and wishing something would be better. This is natural, since it is the mind’s attempt to control all the negativity. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work well. Keeping track of everything we are doing wrong may give us a sense of control but it also undermines us. So make your list of everything that is wrong and that needs improvement, and then shelve it for next month. For now, you really just need to find someone to talk to who will give you that feeling that things will get better and in more control, without you having to beat yourself and everybody else up.
- Dumb down. Yes, you are not perfect. Yes, you need a lot of work. Yes, you have got to do something about this negativity. But remember, you are not the only fool out there in need of a better life. We all pass through periods of dissatisfaction, unhappiness and misery. You are not expected to be perfect, so let yourself be less than that. Remember not only to join the human race, but also that your miserable state could potentially really help someone else to feel a little better about theirs.
- Find a kindred spirit. Misery loves company and there is nothing better than finding someone just as unhappy and miserable as you are right now. Of course, this does require opening up, which could turn into a disaster. If you discover that the person you thought could be a kindred spirit is actually really happy right now, it will lead you to want to destroy either them or yourself. This happens to all of us. There is nothing worse than complaining to someone who wants to see things in a more cheerful light and who will therefore either judge or try to correct your attitude. But if it happens, chalk it up to experience and move on to your next victim until the right person comes along who will be comfortable with and comforted by your unhappiness.
In summary: it is not a good idea to torment yourself and try to twist yourself into knots trying to be in a better frame of mind for the happy holidays. If you can leave yourself alone to feel whatever you want to feel, faking it so as not to get attacked and accused of anything, and trying to maintain your equilibrium with the help of another miserable person and without too much self-attack, you may just make it through unscathed.