At some point, we will all experience one of the ten thousand joys, and ten thousand sorrows.
Hearing of the “ten thousand joys and ten thousand sorrows” was important to me. It brought me back to one of the biggest aims I have for myself.
To be whole.
To be with emotional experiences rather than avoid them. To appreciate that sometimes, I’ll be sad, other times I’ll be happy. Neither of them will last forever and that’s OK.
We all experience a large variety of emotions. Whether that’s sadness or happiness. Anger or grief. Disappointment or excitement. A lot of the time, we try to resist the negative ones and prolong the positive ones. Underneath these experiences, we might have a small story building in our heads about how “this must end because it’s not fair” or “I wish this will last forever”.
These stories demonstrate a resistance to our emotions rather than an acceptance of them. I’ll demonstrate:
If I’m happy because I’m out with friends, I may begin to think to the future about how this night will have to end or why I don’t do it more often. The effects of this might not be obvious in the moment, but it can easily hit us at the end. We wanted it to last longer.
If I’m sad because I’m in pain, I might begin to grow angry at life. Why must I hurt so much? Why must this happen to me? I want it to hurry up and end. Unfortunately, this eagerness to avoid the emotions I’m currently experiencing prolongs it. I’m adding emotional suffering on top of physical suffering.
I’ve been forced to be a bit more introspective and live with my thoughts a bit more because pain can leave me bed ridden for hours on end. The world is presenting me a great opportunity to be sad. One that is near impossible to refuse. The door is open and I’m already halfway in.
This is the usual part of the story where one might say that you fight against it and become happy again. The constant desire to be happy makes us more likely to resist more negative emotions rather than accept that they are only one of the ten thousand sorrows. Thankfully, we will also have ten thousand joys.
The constant desire to be happy can result in significant disappointment when it doesn’t happen. Sadness becomes an enemy rather than just an emotions that comes and goes with time. Often, I found that I would miss moments of happiness in fear of it being taken away.
When people go on to say that their life goal is to be happy, I’ve realised that it isn’t something I want to aim for.
I want to be emotionally whole.
It means to accept and acknowledge the wide range of emotions that we have. We’re allowed to be sad, angry, happy, loving, all sorts of things. I do not believe that we should think of these emotions in reference to happiness (And how they’re either not happiness or just an extended form of it) but rather, we can just accept them.
Because we’re going to experience them anyway.
Placing yourself in the position of a fighter is a helpful story to tell yourself when you’re in a bad place. You’re fighting against the negativity with positivity and good vibes. But what happens when that fails? Does that mean the sadness is winning and you’re failing?
I’m not sure. So it’s worthwhile to think about the story you tell yourself in a bit more detail. Do you really want to spend your time fighting against negativity with positivity? Is that a positive thing to do?
Rather, we might want to adopt the metaphor that we let the sadness in, warm it up with acceptance then see calm embrace the room.
In some sense, we’re lucky to be able to feel such a large range of emotions. In many ways, it shows us that we’re capable of caring about things instead of feeling complete and utter apathy either towards ourselves or towards the things that we want to care about.
I’ve disliked apathy for a very long time. Primarily because there have been pockets in my life where I’ve experienced it for so long. Accepting the wide range of emotions that we have, helps soothe the negative emotions away and appreciate the positive ones. We give these emotions our attention rather than being passively consumed by it.
If you’re feeling sad, you can simply say “sadness is being experienced by me” or “sadness exists”.
If you’re feeling happy – “happiness exists… and I’m happy that it exists”
Separating yourself from the negative, even in your speech, can be the start no longer being overwhelmed by the emotion.
Separating yourself from the positive helps you acknowledge it and not let it pass without your attention.
Doing this really does help us move closer to the “goal” of appreciating the range of our ten thousand joys and ten thousand sorrows.
Striving to be happy is noble but I think, if taken too seriously, strips us from the richness other emotions can have. To do this, we need to slow down and live our days with a bit more mindfulness.
So that is the quest for wholeness. It is difficult and does require practice – I’m certainly nowhere close. However simply reminding myself of this desire does have a calming effect on me. I hope it does for you too.
The quest for wholeness. It requires we pay a bit more attention to ourselves and how we’re feeling. We will be happy and we will be sad. We will be angry, and we will be excited. And that’s OK – they all pass and change with time.
Engaging life challenges us to be fully present and actively involved in our moment-to-moment experience, without clinging to joy and without resisting sorrow.
~ Toni Bernhard
As always, thank you for reading.
I will add – this certainly isn’t to say all negative emotions are good. Please do not misconstrue my message for that. I have nothing to say about the qualities of depression yet for I haven’t arranged my thoughts on it. I will some day and it’ll be here for you to read.