Riding the Emotional Roller Coaster

It doesn’t matter if you’re ready or willing. At some point in our lives, we all take a ride aboard the Emotional Roller Coaster. And all we can do is hold on tight, clench our jaw and bear it.

The general ups and downs of life are more like a merry go round.

I’m talking about the big stuff.

 

 

Like losing your job

Like watching a loved one die

Like waiting for the biopsy results

Like starting a business

Like doing something that scares the crap out of us.

We’re pleasure seeking/pain avoiding creatures so it seems natural to avoid feeling pain or fear or despair. But we do ourselves a disservice when we don’t allow ourselves to feel the full spectrum of our emotions.

If we only focus on feeling the good stuff and numb out the bad feels, we’re limiting our ability to experience joy, pleasure and happiness.

So when the emotional rollercoaster is boarding, we can’t run the other way. Sometimes we have to take a seat and hold on tight. Knowing that the ride isn’t permanent and will eventually come to a stop.

It’s ok to feel like shit at times.

Modern marketing has pulled off a massive hoax by convincing people they should be happy all the time.  It’s just not true. It’s called the Happiness Trap. A term coined by Dr Russ Harris in the book of the same name. The Happiness Trap refers to the myth that:

1. Happiness is the natural state for all human beings.
2. If you’re not happy, you’re defective.
3. To create a better life, we must get rid of negative feelings.
4. You should be able to control what you think and feel.

The book is based on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (behavioral psychology). It’s a mindfulness-based approach that teaches acceptance of our negative thoughts and emotions rather than suppression as a way to create a meaningful life.

Emotional wellbeing requires awareness and acceptance of our feelings. And a meaningful life requires us to experience the full spectrum of emotions. If we cancel out the negative end of the spectrum, we also reduce our ability to experience what’s on the opposite pole.

So how do you cope when you feel like shit?

This is when we need to draw on our reserves.

Routine helps even if we have to force ourselves. After Dad died, I didn’t want to do anything. But I still went for a walk every day. I knew if I could walk today, I’d be able to walk tomorrow too.

And I used my yoga to process my emotions. I say process because it’s an undertaking or a series of steps.

Starting with feeling the feelings. And that was the hardest part.Because I didn’t want to feel. I was overwhelmed by feeling and was craving a sense of normalcy.

I was rejecting my current situation and desperately wanted to go back to how things were.

But there is no going back. And to go forward, rather than stagnate, we have to deal with what’s going on in the present. Not just ride out the storm until it passes.

People who know me and my story, describe me as resilient. But I wasn’t always that way. Yoga gave me coping skills. The last five years of my life have been the worst of my life. But I wouldn’t have come out the other side thriving if it weren’t for what I learned on my yoga mat.

Unbeknownst to me, all those years of sweating it out on the mat, the injuries, the ups and downs I had with yoga and the self-awareness I developed all prepared me for handling THE BIG THREE. Death, divorce and cancer all in the same year.

During that time, my bestie gave me a copy of Man’s Search for Meaning. It’s written by Viktor Frankl, a holocaust survivor and psychiatrist. The central message is that how we react to life is our choice. Sure, we don’t get to choose the cards we’re dealt in life, but we do have the ability to choose how we react.

 

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.
Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.
Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Viktor Frankl

 

And yoga gives us space. Yoga helps us to find the gap between stimulus and response that Frankl describes.

And in that space I found meaning. I also found sanity. And that’s where I was able to hold myself, feeling the worst of the worst and choosing to stay present. In that space I found perspective and I drew immense comfort from the knowledge and wisdom gained from yoga; that everything changes and nothing lasts forever.

Are you on the roller coaster now? Don’t have any reserves? Our Brisbane yoga classes can help for just $30 per week.

Got something you want to share about your own experience? Leave a comment below to create a conversation about emotional wellbeing.

Main Image credit Toronto Star via Getty Images

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