The title of today’s post is the bane of my existence. Seriously – if only we could give up those words, the world would be a healthier, happier place.
I hear some version of it every day.
Usually, it goes like this: something happens, and you feel sadness, disappointment, frustration. And then…
“…I shouldn’t feel that way, because others have it so much worse than me.”
Well – you’re half right. The world is full of people who have it worse than you: if you’re reading this, then you have access to the internet. You probably also have other luxuries, like running water, electricity, food, and shoes. Other people don’t, and that’s awful.
But… How exactly are you helping them by laying the guilt on yourself?
Think about it: if you’re feeling sad, frustrated, nervous, or whatever, you are reacting to something, and that emotion is real. Sure, yours may be smaller than somebody else’s, but it is no less real.
Look at it another way: say you’re out in the sun on a really hot day. You get a little sweaty. Would you feel guilty for sweating, because other people live in the tropics or the desert and they have it so much hotter and you?
… Yeah. Probably not.
Feelings are a natural, reflex reaction to what happens. We don’t choose to feel them – if we did, no one would choose to feel jealous, disappointed, or sad, because it’s not enjoyable. Feelings are reactions – same as sweating is a reaction to being too warm. We cannot stop or control them.
If we were able to just accept our feelings, we’d be much happier (this is why I talk about mindfulness).
Unfortunately, we usually judge ourselves for having feelings: feeling guilty for being sad because “others have it so much worse than me”. Feeling ashamed for being scared, frustrated, angry, whatever.
Sure, sometimes your feelings are as inconvenient or unpleasant as bad breath, body odour, or pimples. But like it or not, your feelings are real. Feeling guilt or shame about them doesn’t make them go away, it just makes you feel miserable.
try out your new mindfulness skills. Give yourself permission to feel. Observe your feelings, without judging them. If you catch yourself thinking stuff like, “Isn’t that horrible? What kind of a person would feel that way?”, tell that judging voice that a healthy person would feel that way – because having real feelings without guilt or self-judgment is a healthy thing to do.
It won’t be easy at first – you might catch yourself criticizing and judging a LOT.
Don’t give up – keep trying!!! It will get easier with practice, and it will make a difference.
I’d love to have you share your thoughts, comments, and questions. If you do post a comment, please don’t give specific details of your trauma – these may be triggering to another reader. If you’d like to offer criticism, I’ll take it – I know I’m not perfect, and I’m always willing to learn. If you do offer criticism though, I’d really appreciate it if you could do so constructively (ie., no name-calling, please). Thanks…
~ Dr. Dee Rajska, C. Psych.
*Fine print: Please feel free to share the link to this blog wherever you think it might be helpful! Reading this blog is a good start, but it’s no substitute for professional help. It takes a different kind of courage to admit to yourself that you’re struggling. PTSD is not a sign of failure – it’s a sign that you’ve been through a lot, and have tried to stay strong for too long. If you need help – you’re in some pretty great company. Reach out, and give yourself a chance to feel better.
**Really fine print: The content of Coming Back Home is copyrighted; please feel free to share the link, but do not copy and paste content. Unless otherwise noted, all original photography on Coming Back Home is copyrighted. The photo gracing today’s post was taken by M & C Charbonneau, and I’d like to thank them for generously allowing me to use their work. Please do not copy photographs from Coming Back Home without permission.