As Wellness Coaches we work with our clients using principles of positive psychology as often as we can. Yet there are times when asking clients to “look on the bright side” is inappropriate and it is of more value to help them explore the not so pleasant emotions they may be feeling. There is a phrase known as “the tyranny of happiness”, which is referring to the potentially harmful habit of always assuming that positive thinking should be the end goal, which may cause us to enter into a trap that ignores the reality of life. Instead, Susan David encourages us to develop emotional agility, which she defines as “the process of being with the fullness of human emotions”. It is anticipated that by 2030, depression will be ranked number one in the list of illnesses. It is essential that we take preventative measures by learning how to manage the sad parts of life.
When faced with dealing with negative emotions it is important to remember that our thoughts and the stories that we tell ourselves, are just that –they are not facts and not who we are.
To help our clients work with their more distressing feelings, we might follow these steps:
Drop the “should” and “shouldn’t” suggestions about our emotions. We often fall into the trap of thinking, “I shouldn’t be feeling this way”, which adds more pressure and layers further negativity on the situation! Instead, don’t push them away and don’t judge them. Accept them for what they are. Think of them as “data” not “directions”.
So rather than ruminate on their sadness/anger/distress, we can help our clients to work in a more productive and less destructive way when bad things happen – which is inevitable.
We sometimes talk of counseling as following “the trail of tears” whereas coaching follows “the trail of dreams”. Yet, tears are as important as joy and laughter and can teach us a lot about ourselves.
Reference: Susan David, Emotional Agility