By Indira Das-Gupta
Maybe it’s something to do with that British tradition of keeping a stiff upper lip in times of trouble, but we often feel pressure to gloss over our difficulties, even with friends. Life is not all unicorns and rainbows and would we even want it to be? There can be no light without darkness, no happiness without sadness. If we felt happy all the time we wouldn’t appreciate it, but take it for granted. Some of the most moving pieces of music and art were inspired sadness and heart break.
Yoga teachers aren’t really meant to swear but this one does and I’ll come right out and say it, life is a bit shit for a lot of people right now. In fact for some people it’s worse than that, this is the reality. We are living in unprecedented and uncertain times. There have been many occasions recently when I have felt as if I am in some sort of sci fi dystopia movie wand I know I’m not alone. So why pretend that everything is hunky dory? It isn’t!
That doesn’t mean we should all give up and be miserable. BUT it’s ok to be a little bit miserable for a while. If someone you care about passes away, you don’t pretend that everything is tickety boo, well you might, but sooner or later the grief will hit you like a sledge hammer. That grief is a reflection of your love for that person, if you didn’t care about them then you wouldn’t feel anything.
It’s absolutely normal and healthy to be at the very least a bit fed up, angry and resentful about the current situation. If you feel like crying, do it! You’ll feel better afterwards. If you bottle it up, it just festers and you may find yourself becoming grumpy and short with those around you at best, or worse, become seriously depressed.
Sometimes the strongest or bravest thing to do is to admit that you are struggling and that you are feeling down. I am a strong woman, but I’m not afraid to admit that I’ve felt down this last week. I had to take the heartbreaking decision to close my studio after 7 years of hard graft. When I taught my last class there, I’m not ashamed to admit that I shed a few tears, but my students don’t think any less of me, they know how much it meant to me and what I put into it. That doesn’t make me weak, it makes me human. If I’m being honest sometimes I even blub just because a contestant on Britain’s Got Talent has revealed that they love their mum! So yes closing my business was bound to make me teary.
In 2020 do we still really believe that “being strong” means not showing emotion or crying? In many cultures emotional displays are considered not just normal but healthy. People are allowed to grieve openly when someone passes, as they should be. Isn’t it better to admit that you are struggling, to confide in someone or ask for help rather than bottle it all up and pretend everything is fine? Sometimes we bottle things up because we just can’t face dealing with difficult emotions and we try to lock away those feelings in the hope they will just disappear. This can take its toll on both our physical and mental health, it’s like trying to ignore an infected wound - it won’t just go away because we want it to. We have to face our emotions head on so we can move on.
Have you ever shied away from having a difficult conversation with someone you knew was having a hard time? Ask yourself why? Is it because you didn’t want to spoil your own good mood? Isn’t that kind of selfish? What if you needed a shoulder to cry on? Is your happiness so fragile that you need to protect it by not allowing any sadness not your life? Or is it that you are worried about saying the wrong thing? Not saying anything can be far worse than saying the wrong thing. Usually all it takes is to just say, “I’m sorry and I’m here if you need me,” just a simple recognition of what that other person is dealing with. When we don’t recognise someone’s hurt, it compounds their feelings of sadness and makes them feel even more alone and misunderstood. So don’t ignore that difficult subject, be brave enough to venture there and offer someone support, you never know when you might need the favour returned.
Another piece of advice, if you do offer to be a friendly ear, then try to really listen! Too often we are so focused on what we want to say next that we don’t really listen to what the other person is saying. Or we offer unsolicited advice as if trying to fix the problem, maybe even trying to put a positive spin on things when really the person who has opened up just wants to be heard, not told what to do or how they should actually be grateful because “things could be a lot worse you know.”
I’m not suggesting that we should all wallow in self pity when the chips are down, but trying to suppress our true feelings is not the answer either. It’s only when we are brave enough to confront our emotions that we can work through them and eventually start to heal. So if you are having an off day, or even an off week, don’t feel guilty about it. Reach out to someone or try and do something you know brings you joy. Life will always have its highs and lows, so give it time and hopefully it won’t be long before you start to experience another high.
If my blog resonates with you or got you thinking then please follow me @indiranorthlondonyoga on Instagram