Mad, Sad, Glad – so tell me, how are you really feeling?
Ah, the winter holidays ….. ‘tis the season to be … Jolly? Harried? Gloomy? Irritable? All of these, either by turns or all at once??
Brené Brown, in her new book, Atlas of the Heart, says that it is important to have a vocabulary of emotion to generate meaning in our lives, and she identified 87 distinct “emotions and experiences” that we can name. You can listen to a wonderful half-hour interview with Brown here that introduces the theme of her book https://the1a.org/segments/brene-brown-on-the-power-of-naming-our-emotions/,
When she began her research, Brown and her research team found that the average number of emotions people can name is just three: happy mad, and sad. I plan to learn more about the other 84, but right now I notice that for my own emotions in this season of complexity, those three – mad, sad, glad – pretty much seem to cover it. And that is OK.
Are you sometimes feeling angry or frustrated these days? There seems to be a lot of that going around, with the continuing pandemic, new variants, unknown risks, differences with our neighbors and family members about vaccines and masks, continuing political and economic uncertainty, conflict and controversy popping up in unexpected places …. It seems harder this year to meet the traditional expectations around the holiday season, whether those demands come from others or just from our own minds. I know I more easily get frustrated at the little things, and I have to remember not to take it out on those who are closest to me, since they have their own frustrations and challenges. And when anger surfaces, we can acknowledge it, accept it, comfort it, let it go, giving and receiving grace for ourselves and each other as we make our way through the emotion.
Are you sometimes down in the dumps these days, sad for no reason, tears closer to the surface, or perhaps a desire to retreat into seclusion when society expects us to be jolly? SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder – is a reality for many of us in this time of year, brought on by diminished sunlight as we move through the Winter Solstice. And at the holidays, our losses are sometimes very present and weigh us down: loved ones lost to us, financial or housing insecurity, perhaps our own incapacity due to change in our body or mind. And when we feel sad, we can allow ourselves to feel the feelings, acknowledge that sadness is part of our very human reality, accept it, comfort it, let it go, giving and receiving grace for ourselves and each other as we make our way through the emotion.
And are you sometimes simply filled with joy and gladness, perhaps unexpectedly, at the sight of a holiday reminder, or the first snowflakes, or a light in the darkness? This is the season of Advent, when the world hovers in expectation of something good just around the corner, and sometimes at this time of year I experience a surge of hopeful anticipation, and I am simply grateful and glad. There is so much to be grateful for in my life: the love of family and friends, memories of happy events, rewarding work with wonderful, wise, committed people – and of course, the golden dog who is my companion, who is simply joyful so much of the time, one of the sweetest creatures I have ever lived with. And when we feel sad, we can allow ourselves to feel the feelings, acknowledge that hope and joy are also part of our very human reality, accept them into our life, know that we deserve a moment of happiness, giving and receiving grace for ourselves and each other as we make our way through the emotion.
And so, in this complicated time, I invite us all to feel the feelings, knowing that all of those around us are having feelings of their own, as we live in connection and relationship. I wish for us all the best of this season of light in the darkness, know you are loved, feel how we give and receive grace for ourselves and each other as we make our way through the season. Blessed be.