Thursday, November 08, 2007

permission to feel crummy

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How often we hear lauded the power of a positive attitude. Don't get me wrong: optimism can be great and definitely has its place in our lives. But sometimes it isn't worth it to fight against our more negative feelings. Sometimes life throws us such difficult curve balls that it is okay to indulge our darker sides and sit for a moment with those thoughts and feelings. In a recent edition of NPR's This I Believe, psychology professor Barbara Held thoughtfully and convincingly expressed her thoughts on finding one's own way of coping. She says we sometimes need nothing more than permission to feel crummy.

I believe that there is no one right way to cope with all of the pain of living. As an academic psychologist, I know that people have different temperaments, and if we are prevented from coping in our own way, be it "positive" or "negative," we function less well.

As a psychotherapist, I know that sometimes a lot of what people need when faced with adversity is permission to feel crummy for a while, to realize that feeling bad is not automatically the same as being mentally ill. Some of my one-session "cures" have come from reminding people that life can be difficult, and it's OK if we're not happy all of the time.

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