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It’s Okay to Feel Bad For No Reason

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From my teens through my early thirties, I spent a lot of family dinners trying to pretend I felt okay.

It’s not that my family made me miserable, not at all. But throughout those years I just felt inexplicably bad some days, and I couldn’t duck out on plans with my family like I could with my friends, at least not without arousing concern.

This feeling was characterized by pit in the stomach, elevated self-consciousness, and a strong urge to go home and get away from people. Not exactly despair, but a version the sort of wounded feeling you might get after giving a bad speech, or getting reprimanded by your boss.

Looking back, I can’t believe how often I felt like that. Each time, all I knew is that I needed to either act normal, or provide an explanation for my low-spirited state (I stayed up late; I didn’t drink enough water today). 

Internally, I mostly attributed it to a certain ineptitude I felt I had at being an adult—I wasn’t getting enough done, I wasn’t organized enough, I hadn’t done some important thing yet. Once the worst of it passed, I would try to figure out the problem and how I could address it. Often I’d end up with a list of new resolutions or goals that I figured would keep me at even keel. I made hundreds of lists like that.

I don’t have clinical depression. I’ve taken the tests and I don’t fit the symptoms. Same with bi-polar, anxiety disorder, and any common condition with a checklist of symptoms.

I’m a generally happy person. I feel like my life is pretty awesome. Most of the time I feel better than “fine”—I feel genuinely at peace.

But even now, I do sometimes feel quite bad for no discernible reason, and I no longer think there’s anything wrong with that. It isn’t necessarily due to mental illness, poor life choices, or inadequate fluid intake.

I grew up believing you had to have a reason to feel bad. Something had to have happened. You saw a scary movie. Somebody hurt your feelings. You’re coming down with something. You aren’t taking care of yourself.

The assumption seemed to be that human beings normally feel good, or at least fine, and only an affliction of some kind, either short- or long-term, could explain why someone would feel bad.

But we know human moods can fluctuate independent of our circumstances. We’ve all experienced it: your life can seem bright in the morning and bleak that same evening, even if nothing objective has changed.

Some of us fluctuate a lot more wildly than others, which I think is what’s behind much of the confusion. Over the last few years, I’ve (finally) talked more openly with certain friends and family members about this phenomenon, and there seems to be a very wide range of norms. When I’ve shared with these people my repeated experience of quietly dying inside during family dinners or department meetings, some say they have it much worse, and some have no idea what I’m talking about.

You probably know which one you are. It’s so hard to know what the normal “normal” is, because most people don’t want to talk about this stuff, or hear about it. I’m not a psychologist, so don’t take this as a scientific claim, but I’m now convinced that even well-adjusted people can sometimes feel really bad for no reason.

Yet we think we need a reason, so we feel bad about feeling bad, and the snowball effect can be devastating.

My dark moods were probably unavoidable, but they lasted for days because I believed it wasn’t acceptable to feel bad if I couldn’t explain why.

When you believe your mood necessarily means something is wrong, that something can only be you, or the world around you. You feel like have to fix one or both, and of course you don’t know how, so you feel worse.

When you scan for faults in the world or in yourself, you always find plenty, and each can fuel endless rumination. You wind up adopting any number of grim beliefs in order to make the equation make sense:

  • I’m not doing enough
  • I can’t stop screwing up certain vital things
  • The world is mean and dangerous
  • There’s something wrong with my brain

But those depressing explanations for feeling bad aren’t necessary when nobody (yourself included) is demanding a reason.

It’s not that moods and mental states don’t have causes. Presumably there are genetic, neurochemical, and situational factors behind every feeling we have. But those hidden mechanisms don’t always produce a knowable, expressible reason for feeling bad.

And the world does expect reasons. If someone asks you how you’re doing, and you say “Not great,” they will ask why. And you’ll give them an answer, whether you believe it or not.

Or you can just say you’re fine, and know that there will be no further interrogation, because it’s always okay to feel okay.

Sometimes there are discernible reasons for low moods, of course, and it makes sense to act on them. (I don’t have a plan for my consumer debt, and I need one. My relationship is stagnating and I need to address that.) There are also serious, diagnosable mood disorders that need treatment.

But all of us are subject to the entire range of human emotion, and that itself is not a problem that needs to be fixed. I wonder how many interactions we have daily with clerks, cashiers, co-workers, and friends who are, at that moment, doing their best to appear okay.

Those major mood dips don’t happen to me very often anymore, thanks to two godsends: meditation, and friends who are willing to talk about how shitty they (or you) feel. Most people don’t seem to want talk about feeling awful, and I can’t help but wonder if it’s because they also believe they need a reason to feel bad.

I now try to respond to my moods like I do weather. Day-to-day conditions shift and change, emerging from a web of mostly unseen causes. Each of us has to contend with our own local climate, with its particular norms and extremes. Some get San Diego, some get Newfoundland.

Each type of sky has its own benefits and liabilities, but none of them are “wrong.” We no longer assume rain means we’ve displeased the gods. We don’t (usually) shake our fists at the sky in protest.

We acknowledge the conditions, and make adjustments. Put on a sweater, postpone the party, watch a movie. It’s okay to feel bad.

***

Photo by erik witsoe
Dr. McFrugal October 19, 2018 at 1:24 am

Interesting thought. I wonder why the world wants a reason for why a person is feeling bad. My only thought is that some people truly are empathetic and want to help others. So if they knew the reason why somebody is feeling bad, perhaps they can offer some sort of help. Another possible reason could be that other people are feeling bad too (and may not know why as well). So perhaps this subset of people are trying to validate their own reasons for feeling bad.

David Cain October 19, 2018 at 6:24 am

I think people do want to help, for the most part. However, I think it can be counterproductive to assume there is a particular problem to be fixed, because it can imply that the person doesn’t have to feel that way if they would just do X. My first impulse is always to find and solve “the problem”, but my relationships have taught me that the first thing a person wants when they’re feeling bad is to be listened to.

Evan November 6, 2018 at 2:17 pm

To use the weather analogy, maybe you see rain all the time but a person with a fresh perspective who lives in the weather pattern miles away can offer a logical different perspective as to the source of your rain. Maybe they live in a region that generates the rain in your area and you had no idea all along.

Translation – maybe we need the input of others to allow ourselves to see things outside of the way we always reflexively see them.

Rocky October 19, 2018 at 3:05 am

Thanks to you I have a daily meditation practice which helps enormously with my moods. The quality of my meditation does vary a lot …. I think this accounts for a lot of the changes in my personal weather.
Most of the time I’m covered by a blanket of “Okay-ness” that you mentioned somewhere in your writings.
Also a great deal of peace.
Your work has been a great help.
Many Thanks !!

David Cain October 19, 2018 at 6:26 am

Hi Rocky. Definitely — meditation reveals it quite plainly how much the mental and emotional landscape shifts from day to day, without anything necessarily happening to explain it. Glad you’re keeping up the practice!

Ameen October 19, 2018 at 4:13 am

And vice versa, you don’t need a reason to be happy as well. Maybe that’s why we feel vaguely unhappy as you’ve described. The criteria that society lays down for us is you can’t be happy until you achieve or obtain something that you don’t have. The basic idea or the purpose of life that we observe since we’re children is to experience the most favorable ratio of pleasure to suffering or gratification to sacrifice and that’s the only way to be happy. The problem with that assumption is of course that when happiness depends on something external, what happens when you no longer have that something or it doesn’t seem like you have enough of it to make you feel happy? It becomes an endless chase for external joy or escape from external pain.

We never really consider the idea that we are already whole and happy at our core but somewhere along the line we’re misguided into assuming that unhappiness is our default and we need to acquire reasons to be happy. This doesn’t mean we should disengage from life but it just means that achieving or acquiring things doesn’t come from a place of lack but from a curiosity to explore and expand in life. It’s easier said than done of course and it’s difficult to maintain this awareness when we’re constantly being catapulted between consumer culture and seemingly inconvenient situations.

David Cain October 19, 2018 at 6:28 am

That’s the other side of it, yeah. At least in western capitalist systems, there is a great emphasis in “happiness through acquisition.” Happiness isn’t a way to relate to the present moment, it’s a state achievable in life if you accomplish the right things — decent job, home, etc. This gives us a mentality of happiness being something that happens later, which means we don’t expect to find it here.

However, you’ve probably noticed that when someone says “How are you?” and you say “Good” they don’t ask why. It’s feeling bad that is the suspicious state that needs to be attributed to something.

Jasmijn October 19, 2018 at 4:19 am

Thanks for this, I have been trying to figure out all morning why I feel bad. I think I”ll stop now. :)

David Cain October 19, 2018 at 6:29 am

:)

Daryl October 19, 2018 at 4:37 am

Great post; very well written. I am sure lots of readers needed to hear that. Thanks.

David Cain October 19, 2018 at 6:29 am

I hope so. It’s hard to know how relatable it is because it’s such an internal matter. I suspect lots of people feel bad and don’t have an explanation for it.

Lisis October 19, 2018 at 5:15 am

Jay and I were just talking about this yesterday. We decided to just start surfing the waves of feeling awesome and productive, and not worrying too much about the times when the “surf” sucks… just use those moments to rest up in order to catch the next wave. What used to seem bipolar or depressive now feels mostly like natural cycles… like literally every single thing in Nature that sometimes pushes forward and sometimes dies back a little… only to push forward again.

In any case, I love the synchronicity of this article.

David Cain October 19, 2018 at 6:33 am

Hey Lisis!

Totally… while things might not be perfectly cyclical (as in coming and going predictably) they are always changing. We can be sure the surf will always be great again, and that it will always suck again. We can live with that!

Accidental FIRE October 19, 2018 at 5:20 am

You mentioned weather at the end and that’s what I was thinking about while reading. The human brain and our systems of hormones etc are so incredibly complex, we don’t fully understand it. Something like the weather or just the amount of sunlight combined with the temperature can affect some folks and make them feel bad, or even depressed. We developed in the outside world and are intrinsically tied to it’s ups and downs.

David Cain October 19, 2018 at 6:34 am

Absolutely, and I wonder if there’s something in our culture that has us thinking we can live independent of these conditions, if we just do the right things, have the right habits, get the right job, etc. We are part of a bigger system and subject to its whims, and it would help us to stay aware of that.

Elisa Winter October 19, 2018 at 5:26 am

That letting go of having to fix it, change it, make it something different, releasing that extra layer of burden, sometimes I can get there, sometimes I just ruminate until whenever, making it all worse. All Things Must Pass. Let It Be. Thanks, David.

David Cain October 19, 2018 at 6:36 am

I find it helpful just to become aware of difficult emotions, as in their physical symptoms, and let them hang out a bit, rather than jumping right into the rumination/problem-solving mode. Often there is no problem to solve, but when we insist that we “can’t” feel like we feel, we create one.

Thomas Tiedje October 19, 2018 at 6:50 am

Feeling bad sometimes is just part of life. It’s a human condition. I often feel bad or anxious in the morning. But here’s the good news: mostly, it’s a temporary condition. Feelings and thoughts come and go. They don’t have to mean anything. Accept the feeling, but don’t ruminate too much. Worst scenario, you’re in for a depression. Don’t overthink and don’t forget to live. And put on those nice neat snickers allthough your mental state tells you to wear boots.

Vishal Kataris October 19, 2018 at 7:02 am

I feel bad too, David. In fact, sometimes on normal days, my heart starts racing and I cannot figure out why. The thing is, I’ve felt like this right since childhood. But in my country, parents don’t want their child to behave like a lunatic – read, do anything other than what’s expected of them. So I didn’t address this feeling. I didn’t even understand it. But it stayed with me. Sometimes I’d erupt like a dormant volcano.

Eventually, I started keeping to myself. Lost a lot of friends, but found one in Stoic teachings. Now I’m aware of my feelings and draw a clear line that I don’t want others to cross on days when I don’t feel so good. They might not like it, but their words slide off me like water off a duck’s back.

On rare instances, I still get angry. But it’s okay. I realize that I’m allowed downtime too.

David Cain October 23, 2018 at 4:15 pm

Also thankful for the stoics!

Catherine October 19, 2018 at 7:08 am

I do agree and it does take off pressure to believe that it’s okay just not to feel okay sometimes. Having said that, as someone who has had bouts of depression and who isn’t very in touch with her emotions, I do sometimes find myself feeling bad and it is only days later that I work out what has upset me and only then that I can address that situation. Distinguishing between the two circumstances seems like it may be the key. In both cases though someone asking why I feel bad rather than maybe asking is there anything that would help you feel better doesn’t really help, well-intentioned though it may be.

Francis Hicks October 19, 2018 at 7:44 am

Thanks for another great post. Your comment about” feeling bad about feeling bad” resonates with me. When I discovered this I became able to stop the spiral. When well meaning friends would remind me of how much I have to be thankful for, u would denigrate myself for not feeling great all the time. No more. Thoughts and feelings are just that: thoughts and feelings. Neuropeptides interacting. Nothing to be taken seriously.

Emma October 19, 2018 at 8:35 am

A great post, and very timely for me as this is something I have been contemplating recently. I’ve been this way for as long as I can remember, and have developed ways to get through it and ‘let it be’ rather than force myself out of it (which never really works and just results in my being angry at myself in addition!) Thank you for this post David!

Christina Moore October 19, 2018 at 8:40 am

This is exacltly how I have felt too and a few years ago I realized I was constantly making something up to explain why I felt “bad”. Of course it’s easy for women to blame it on hormones. I finally gave myself permission a few years ago to quit searching for a reason. I also decided to use that time, when possible, in meditation or some kind of rest, assuming that maybe that was what the Universe was trying to tell me I needed. Thank you for confirming all of this for me. I so appreciate your perspective on all the myriad issues you write about.

David Cain October 23, 2018 at 4:17 pm

That’s what I do too now. When I notice I’m ruminating about the reasons for feeling bad, I take it as a cue to notice how it’s actually manifesting itself, in the body and the kinds of thoughts.

Madeline Walker October 19, 2018 at 9:20 am

David:

This resonated SO MUCH with me. Thank you. I feel like I’ve been given permission to feel crappy without having to endlessly explain or analyze. And I know that when I just accept the crappy days, they simply pass. I have felt that focusing on them and trying analyze causes and conditions can dig me further into the feelings.

Why does our culture seem to expect happiness 100% of the time?

Your message also helps me to simply accept my three adult sons in all of their moods–and be gracious about them feeling bad and not wanting to come to family dinners or whatever. . . A very liberating idea.

Again, thank you for your wonderful blogposts. I’ve enjoyed them, and now it’s time to express my appreciation.

Madeline

David Cain October 23, 2018 at 4:19 pm

It’s strange that western culture seems to expect persistent happiness when it’s really not a particularly happy culture. Ironically I’m much happier now that I don’t worry about being happy all the time.

Lyn October 19, 2018 at 9:26 am

A very valuable piece; thank you for your honesty. Your messages help more than you know. Please keep writing.

David Cain October 23, 2018 at 4:19 pm

<3

John Norris October 19, 2018 at 9:34 am

Could it be the family dinners were part of the problem? Maybe you’re an introvert and forced socializing is just painful, or at least uncomfortable?

David Cain October 23, 2018 at 4:19 pm

Nope that’s not it

Lauren October 19, 2018 at 9:37 am

Hi this article showed up in my inbox today and I just wanted to come here and leave a comment to say thanks for sharing it. I’ve long been of the belief you don’t need a reason to be in a bad mood or feel bad, however, it has been hard explaining to others. When I say I don’t want to talk right now or meet right now, they immediately call to ask why, what’s wrong, and demand answers. It puts me in an even worse mood because I can’t give them the answers they want. It is a vicious cycle that usually ends with everyone involved pissed off. I think I might just start sending them this article instead! Thanks for sharing it!

David Cain October 23, 2018 at 4:21 pm

That drives me nuts too. When someone asks me “What’s wrong” I want to say “Nothing, I’m a human.”

Abigail October 19, 2018 at 10:06 am

David, thank you again for your inspiring insight. The discussion got me to thinking about my continued efforts to be a positive person. After reading, I thought it might be helpful to ask people why they are feeling good because if someone asked me it would give me pause to reflect on the gratitude I am feeling in that moment. But then I thought about all those times when I say “I’m fine”, just because I don’t want to talk about the thing that is making me feel bad or that I don’t want to be seen as a negative person (whatever that is). In fact, I think it would be easier to respond to someone who asks why I feel bad (because I already admitted it) than to why I feel good, when I actually don’t feel good! Perhaps I need to be honest and say, “I’m having a bad moment, but it will pass”, because it will.

David Cain October 23, 2018 at 4:53 pm

I think there is something to be said for trying to be pleasant around others, but we can’t control how we feel. I like to think we can be both true to how we feel and be a positive enough experience for others. Most of the time, anyway… we can only do so much :)

Kathy October 19, 2018 at 10:34 am

It’s so gratifying to have someone else express the thoughts you haven’t been able to put into words. Maturity has its rewards and even though I haven’t been able to be clear about why I feel more comfortable with “feeling bad”, I just do. Like you, in my younger years I often found myself telling my dear friends, “I feel so depressed” before being depressed had a clinical attachment. I really just felt very low. Now I know that the lowness passes, I don’t have to figure out why I feel that way, and I don’t get down on myself for not knowing why. Very freeing. I love your blog (the one on Procrastination was fabulous and as a procrastinator extraordinaire you’ve given me great insights that I’m going to work with my kids, who inherited the gene :) )

David Cain October 23, 2018 at 4:54 pm

The lowness does pass! Evne though it often doesn’t seem like it, they do all go, and this is demonstrable — every mood has passed except this one.

Leslie October 19, 2018 at 10:36 am

Hi David: So much of what you write resonates with me. This one makes me think of my early 20s, quite a few years ago now. I was passively suicidally depressed for months. I decided that since I wasn’t actively going to try to kill myself, I would do an experiment: surrender and see how depressed I could get. Three weeks later I absolutely fine, and to this day have never been even close to that low again. When I feel the edges of that old feeling (and other bad feelings) come on, I know my therapy is to relax into it and take good kind care of me, and it will pass. And yes, meditation is key, and now that I think about it, it’s really the same thing (relax, breathe, explore it). These days I’m working with anxiety. :)

Alex October 19, 2018 at 10:42 am

Hi David,
I’ve been reading and sharing your posts with friends for a long time now. Your articles often resonate with me, but they have never compelled me to comment before.
I find myself in a similar situation with large swings, but not enough to be bipolar – maybe cyclothymic but not enough to treat. It gives me great comfort that you have found peace, as I am 29 and still write lists. I have some great friends that I can talk about ‘the buried life’ with (see poem: The Buried Life by Matthew Arnold), and it also brings me great comfort.
I meditate irregularly, perhaps your article will spur my discipline.
Thanks for everything,
Alex

David Cain October 24, 2018 at 9:10 am

Same here… I’m glad the world starting to take mental illness seriously, but (I suspect) there’s still a large number of people who suffer mood issues that are powerful enough to inhibit them some days, yet don’t meet a recognized diagnosis, and it’s hard to explain to people who don’t experience the same things.

Gwinn October 19, 2018 at 11:00 am

Loved this. Reminds me of one of Pema Chodron’s quotes: “You are the sky. Everything else—it’s just the weather.”

Annie October 19, 2018 at 11:34 am

Have you read DR. Andrew Weil’s book Spontaneous Happiness? It helped me a great deal to view happiness as an emotional spectrum and to recognize that we each have a setpoint on this spectrum. We can choose to accept it and let it be or try things that can nudge it towards the happier end. It has helped me to realize that my occasional blue moods are okay and they will eventually pass. Also I’ve found that meditation, spending time in nature walking or gardening, cooking healthy foods, buying myself flowers, and seeking out good news in the world helps to lift my mood. From so many outside sources we are told we should always be happy and that is just not realistic and it makes us feel even more anxious about our unhappy feelings. I think the best way to help someone who is having a rough time is to say, “it’s okay to feel that way and I am here for you to listen or talk or whatever you need.”

Rose Pearson October 19, 2018 at 11:56 am

Dear Mr.Cain,

I appreciate the insight that when we don’t know why we feel bad, creating an explanation for ourselves and others can complicate matters; The reason we create is likely inaccurate and when we adopt the beleif we created to make sense of our feelings we inadvertantly sustain the feelings for much longer then necessary. In the absence of real understanding it’s far better to accept, allow and let go, without needing to know why.

That said,in my experience, there’s always, always a reason. But only in discovering The Actual Cause behind a feeling is there both the instant relief of discovering the truth and a way forward to heal long-term. Of course this kind of discovering is not always straight forward.

I think the sincere quest to discover the real reasons behind our unhappiness fuels an open mind to keep exploring and discovering meaning and new frontiers of consciousness and love.
I think this limitless expansion is the hidden gift of not settling for simple acceptance of not knowing why we’re hurting.

Perhaps my ideal is a balance of the two approaches. Acceptance that pain and hard feelings are a part of life and it’s totally okay. We don’t have to know why to embrace our moment and ourselves. And simoltaneously remaining open and curious, hungry (and even excited dare I say) to discover the real reason why. Maybe we won’t discover it today, or tomorrow, but susatining a sense that there is a reason and if you understand it you’ll be set even more free. When paradoxically paired with acceptance this kind of unacceptance keeps up a healthy search for real growth.

Thank you for creating a space where this kind of conversation is possible!

Rose

Brady October 19, 2018 at 12:01 pm

I really resonate with Matt Frazier’s (No Meat Athlete) description of this as the ‘Seasons of Life.’ There are life seasons when you’re motivated and productive and positive, and other times when it’s the opposite- for no apparent reason. When there are those down times, instead of resisting just embrace it- take it as a ‘winter’ season. It’s your body and mind revving up for the next ‘summer’ season. It’s just balance – yin and yang. It can’t always be summer.

Wallyson October 19, 2018 at 12:10 pm

I love when I receive an e-mail or rss notification of a new post here.
It’s like I’m clicking already knowing that the read will make me feel great!

You’re a fantastic writer, thank you for this (and every text around here).

John Khalil October 19, 2018 at 4:38 pm

YUP.

David Cain October 24, 2018 at 9:16 am

:)

Arthur October 19, 2018 at 3:10 pm

I think we all have 1 or 2 ‘off’ days per week. I think that’s normal. I can’t imagine anyone feeling amazing 24/7 haha.

But if it regularly extends past 2 days per week, then maybe your sleep patterns are unhealthy, bad diet, not enough water, low T (for guys), not enough fresh air/ sunlight, or you have some glaring issues in your life that you NEED to address asap.

Abhijeet Kumar October 19, 2018 at 3:14 pm

This is why I like reading your blog posts.

“We acknowledge the conditions, and make adjustments. Put on a sweater, postpone the party, watch a movie. It’s okay to feel bad.”

Acknowledging, and recognizing what is in our hands in that moment, already shifts mood. Similarly being honest (even when alone) to how one feels, goes a long way. And if you have people who can just understand, that is always beautiful.

Shane October 19, 2018 at 5:49 pm

Love this post David, so honest. I can totally relate it.

Steve Mays October 19, 2018 at 6:44 pm

“I feel the way I feel, and I can’t really do much about it. The “I” that is supposed to be separate from and controlling the feeling is only imaginary.”

— Still the Mind by Alan Watts

Angie unduplicated October 20, 2018 at 7:19 am

Sometimes your subconscious mind knows things you haven’t figured out yet. I left a family of backstabbers. Watch everyone.

Service workers often work two jobs because of low wages. A mother of children has a second full time job, even with one job. Students may be doing internships plus working a service job for tuition. Treat them with kindness even if they seem distant to the point of rudeness.

David Cain October 20, 2018 at 8:34 am

Thank you for the insightful comments everyone. I’m away this weekend without my computer but look forward to responding. Keep them coming! :)

Takahiro October 20, 2018 at 9:52 pm

Thank you so much for this! What a liberating idea! I’ve been dealing with depression my whole life but I always felt like feeling bad had to be tied to something. The realization that it doesn’t will help me be nicer to myself.

Cathryn October 20, 2018 at 10:02 pm

“I wish I felt this good all the time” I said to my life coach last week. We discussed the ingredients that made up that superlative moment of satisfaction; things like helping someone master a skill that improves their work and, more importantly, their personal life for all time; a personal breakthrough on a goal; goodness in the physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, social and work selves; and maybe self-permission to feel that way and bask in that high. For me, that good feeling is not easily reproducible, rather it is imprecise, elusive and effervescent; always striven for, but seldom achieved.

Because of this recent conversation, I found your article so very interesting. Is the very bad day because of discontent with things as they are in both others and ourselves? Does it couple with the imbalance in one or more of the personal selves? The self-permission to feel it, to know it is temporary, seems similar. And, perhaps, it is as difficult to exactly reproduce. But when it happens we know it in that moment.

So is everyday life a combination of contentment with some things and discontent with others? Do these things run in their own cycles, tenses and times or their own random motions? Do they keep us to our normal, balanced state most of the time and sometimes align to a make really good or a really bad day?

With appreciation for the ideas you share.

Michelle Kowalski October 20, 2018 at 11:55 pm

Good on you, David! And what a BEAUTIFUL photo to go with a piece about feeling bad! :-) Simply stunning. Indicates I think the tender, even loving, attitude you take to a characteristically, as you point out, unpopular topic. Y

You are so smart. And I admire you for it. Your crazily razor-sharp insightfulness into topics that weigh us down, but we don’t, can’t, haven’t yet articulated is a godsend. You know you’re a total gift, right?

Maridadi October 21, 2018 at 3:13 am

Yes, it resonates. I find life hard to deal with as it is today. Some mistakes follow you around for ever and contribute to my often bad days. Thank you for the article David.

Su October 21, 2018 at 11:46 am

Hi 2 all of you lovely people,
This article resonates with an idea I stumbled across several years ago: feelings are guests. They come and go – but they don’t define the house you’re living in. And it is upon you how much fuss you make about being the host….. This idea helps me quite often whenever an uneasy feeling is ringing at my door. I know this guest is just staying for a while and will eventually leave. Same is of course applicable for good feelings – but with the good ones you’ll take care to prolong their stay :)

Marie Barger October 21, 2018 at 6:57 pm

Makes complete sense. Thankfully I don’t have a long enough attention span for this to be an issue. However, when people call me and tell me they feel bad. I always ask if they drank enough water. Thanks to reading this I will stop responding with that question. I know enough to know I am enough and you are enough. Now I know it’s ok to feel bad without any apparent reason.
Thank you,
Marie

Brandon October 22, 2018 at 9:27 am

I know just what you are talking about. For me, sometimes it manifests as feeling anxious, other it is more like a a depression. My family has a tendency toward “nerves” as the older generation calls it and many of us use antidepressants. I’ve always thought that our issue is located in the mind. But meditation has taught me that much of what I am feeling in those times is actually in the body. When I watch my body, I notice my muscles twitch and jerk and ache and my heart skips. And this knowledge makes me feel better about it because my body is less me than my brain.

David Cain October 24, 2018 at 9:23 am

In my experience there is always a bodily component if you look closely enough, and meditation allows you to do that. What’s so useful about that is that if you stay aware of the bodily side of it, you can reach a kind of peace with it that’s much more difficult to reach with the thinking/narrative side of it. The Goenka school of vipassana emphasizes awareness of this bodily side of every experience. They say bodily sensation is involved in every thought and feeling, and that involvement is detectable.

Stubblejumpers Cafe October 22, 2018 at 1:38 pm

I don’t have too many of those “low” days, but today happens to be one so your entry is particularly interesting. I too, when one comes along, wonder what the reason might possibly be. When there’s no obvious reason, I cast about. Am I tired? Do I need to get outside? Am I bored? Lonely? Disappointed? Do I just need to do something — anything? What I really feel like doing is going back to bed, but I don’t. Instead I put on some music and wash the dishes, and that helps some. Getting moving, accomplishing this small but necessary thing, makes a difference.

But I agree, letting ourselves feel what we feel is important, and necessary if the mood is to pass. It’s a mystery sometimes, though, and we like to solve those mysteries, don’t we!

I recently read a book by John Holland on mediumship, and here’s what he said about the occasional low mood: Instead of questioning WHAT you are feeling, ask yourself WHO you are feeling. You could be picking up on someone else’s mood. Just a thought.

-Kate

Takahiro October 23, 2018 at 1:13 pm

Chuck Draws Things reinforced this thought. :)
https://www.instagram.com/p/BpMz7yvDYhJ/

David Cain October 24, 2018 at 9:24 am

This is perfect

izzy October 24, 2018 at 12:25 pm

And conversely, is it bad to feel OK for no reason?
Sometimes ‘reason’ is just not up to the job.

Allan Fein October 25, 2018 at 8:14 am

From a very early age I didn’t know how to deal with negative feelings, or feeling bad so my defense mechanism was to deny and suppress the feelings and do everything possible to make them go away. Smoking marijuana was a method I utilized during my late teens and early twenties to numb myself, and it was quite successful. In my late twenties I met a wonderful lady got married and during the week after the wedding my brother-in-law requested that his sister and I take a seminar which became my GODsend in August of 1985. During that weekend seminar 33 years ago I became fully aware that I was not the only one experiencing these profound negative feelings. The amazingly generous and courageous people who took this seminar with my wife and I shared their intimate life stories, and in that sharing, for the first time in my life I didn’t feel like an outsider or a broken human. Landmark World Wide is the current name of the company that still to this day, 33 years later, still offers the Landmark Forum. I thank all of the courageous & generous people who have shared their lives with me. Within the last 10-years I have become interested in Zen Buddhism and my teachers name is Thích Nhât Hanh. Like David Cain, my current GODsend is also meditation and Dharma sharing groups. The bottom line is: “Running Away” from my feelings made things worse. Being courageous and sharing myself with others who are willing to do the same has made all the difference. I would also like to thank you David, as I’m certain you are changing lives with every keystroke you type.

Nathan October 26, 2018 at 2:59 pm

Timely article for me. I had some reasons. My spouse finally noticed and asked why, and feeling like she was open to hear helped me clear out some concerns.

Not sure if other readers are in a similar situation, but as a stay-at-home parent and also new to town, I’m a bit lacking in adult company. That will improve over time, but it makes the down days a little darker.

Chin up, as they say.

Hana October 29, 2018 at 8:37 am

I try to lean in when someone tells me they’re feeling bad, “life’s too short to be happy all the time” is a phrase that I catch myself habitually using. This article got me thinking about the venn overlap of hell where rumination, intrusive thoughts, and mood collide into a supercell like the center of a hurricane. Meditation and naming the intrusions/ruminations were the first level ups that allowed me to expand beyond a labyrinth of reaction and people pleasing where I felt helpless against a threatening and unpredictable world. As my mind began to clear and I gained manual control of my thoughts, (after years of automation) I was often plagued by waves of emotion that could easily send me back into the automated spirals that I would have to arduously climb out of. Eventually the words went away and I was left to taste the emotions and hear them as a spectrum of a wave. Empathy is a huge trigger. There are those of us whose minds perseverate on atrocity and injustice to distraction and beyond as the emotional resonance washes over our individual circumstance and obscures its point of origin. I was a cause warrior for a long time, always reacting to urges that I had to fix the bad feelings of the world in order to fix my own. I limit my exposure to injustice triggers now and store my energy for moments where minds meet in person and we get opportunities to digest the big problems together. A sentiment that changed me is, “Do not allow yourself to be overwhelmed by the enormity of the world’s suffering… you are not obligated to complete the work but beither are you free to abandon it.” Thank you, as always, for speaking out about these hidden structures that we navigate ♡

Jaspal Singh November 9, 2018 at 10:31 am

Hi David, I think it is normal for one to feel bad on occasions as all this is linked to our emotions, mind and relations…

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