Just before Christmas I posted a note about happiness and weight loss/gain and Secret Shadows made a comment about how hard it is to get yourself into a positive frame of mind when you are in a dark place. I thought that warrants a separate post about congruent responses.
It is indeed a difficult task to smile when you are feeling anything but happy. I don’t know if it even is possible. I mean, when bad things happen, either right now or when past trauma gets triggered, feeling down, depressed, sad, hurt, or confused is a totally normal response. When you burn your hand on a hot plate, you shout ‘autsch’ and make sure your hand is looked after. Going around smiling as if nothing has happened is just stupid. Emotional maturity is about responding congruently and appropriately to an event and expressing that response.
Feeling hurt, sad, angry …. (the list could go on and on) and not expressing these feelings may be in many families and groups a sign of ‘being tough’, like boys don’t cry. However, what it really means is that the person who is not expressing these feelings is afraid. Afraid of further retaliation, afraid of not being considered strong by others, afraid of not being liked, afraid of showing others how much they care. In my books, not showing your emotions is a sign of weakness. You eat when you feel hungry – why wouldn’t you cry when you feel sad? Emotions are a powerful source of information about the world in which we live.
While all this could be going on within a person’s inner world, it is also possible to have a positive frame of mind. Meaning that you don’t dwell for ever and ever on a negative event or a mishap; you don’t criticise yourself relentlessly for a a mistake you made. It means that a lot of the time you are able to notice those things that are a blessing in your life. You notice people caring about you; you notice the things you did well, you notice the beauty around you; you notice your friends and have time for them; you notice what you need in order to be physically and emotionally well and you go about meeting those needs.