I don’t think I am a particularly happy or sad person, but an approach I’m always trying to tweak is balancing good feelings and bad ones, and treating them equally.
Without one there is no context for the other. Often times, when I am feeling one way, I step back and tell myself that it’s the natural ebb and flow of life because both happiness and pain shape who we are (Obviously, this happens most on the bad side of the spectrum).
I’m on this topic because I got around to reading this piece “What Suffering Does” from NYT, and cherry-picked some passages that stood out to me:
...suffering drags you deeper into yourself…. The agony involved in, say, composing a great piece of music or the grief of having lost a loved one smashes through what they thought was the bottom floor of their personality, revealing an area below…
A little more on how suffering manifests itself in music: It’s not a coincidence that first albums are often the most successful music that an artist/group puts out. It’s because that first album is a full of emotion from living life — years of thoughts, feelings, struggles, heartbreak (not to mention honing their craft) — compressed into 12 songs.
It’s no surprise that’s there’s a sophomore slump phenomenon. When their second album is released two years later — it normally isn’t as refined or impassioned as their debut.
…suffering gives people a more accurate sense of their own limitations, what they can control and cannot control. When people are thrust down into these deeper zones, they are forced to confront the fact they can’t determine what goes on there.
They are not masters of the situation, but neither are they helpless. They can’t determine the course of their pain, but they can participate in responding to it.
The author doesn’t really delve deep into how suffering can take you in the wrong direction when unchecked. If you’re not regularly taking stock and placing that emotion into the right compartment, you won’t learn how to properly respond to suffering. If you avoid giving feelings the weight they deserves in context, then all bad feelings will be equally big (or small) and they can consume you; molding your persona over time.
I’ve had friends that have some rough patches in their life — some come out of it with appreciation for the new perspective and others come out jaded, untrusting and negative. How you cope with the ups and downs of life depends on how you’ve trained yourself (or conditioned) to respond.