A friend of mine once posed this question: As humans, what is our obsession with negativity and pain?
That question struck a chord with me, so I had to sit with it to see if I could gain a “big picture” perspective. What came to me was rather fascinating, so I thought I’d share it here…
There can be many ways to define what an obsession is, but one way is this: The habitual focus on aspects of our lives we prefer not to experience.
Using that definition makes the rest of this conversation easier. I say that because emotional and physical pain is a natural part of our human experience, but they’re not a part of our everyday experience. Anything that is an exception to our daily experience automatically draws our attention; precisely because it is an exception.
If you allow yourself to sit with that thought without judgment, you will eventually find that it resonates on a deeply emotional level. The default setting for every human being is one of contentment and joy. Permit yourself to simply observe your feelings—without attaching any meaning to what you find —and you will discover how much joy is a part your life.
Our human side may be tempted to think that negativity and pain are the rule, and that joy is the exception, but the opposite is true. The focus on negativity and pain is a learned trait, not a natural one. If you need an example, observe young children. Pay close attention, and you will see that through their eyes, this world is a fascinating place; one filled with wonder and discovery. Everything is processed through the lens of excitement and adventure.
When properly guided, children quickly learn what can be physically harmful. However, most of us fail to teach our offspring about what is emotionally harmful. There are very few cultural structures that show us how to maintain our emotional awareness, and the few that do exist can be overwhelmed by family dynamics that pass down emotional dysfunction through countless generations.
As stated earlier, negativity and pain are periodic exceptions to an otherwise joyous life. Human beings prefer not to experience negativity and pain, but who wouldn’t? From a strictly rational point of view, those experiences suck big time, and yet they are an inevitable part of the human adventure. Why? Because they help us recognize when we are in our natural state of contentment and joy.
So, rather than resisting negative emotions, embrace them. Resistance is what leads to obsession (the habitual focus on aspects of your life we’d rather not experience). The more you resist something, the more you focus on it. Therefore, allow yourself to experience the very emotions you’d prefer not feel. You’ll discover that those feelings will flow through you smoothly and they will go away on their own.
Here is one last thought to consider: The obsession with negativity and pain is more perception than reality, but as humans sometimes say, “My perception is my reality.”
What an incredible statement, because therein lies the answer.
Ask yourself, “What do I choose to perceive? Where is my focus? Am I resisting negative emotions, or am I allowing myself to feel them?”
Your honest answers will guide you and help you release whatever obsessions you have.
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