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Starting to Become Your Whole Self

I’ve been reading the book The Upside of Your Dark Side by Todd Kashadan, Ph.D., and Robert Biswas-Diner, Dr. Philos. The essential message is that if we suppress our unwanted feelings, such as anger or sadness, we actually get less from life.

The book includes research about emotional suppression and cultural comparisons. It draws conclusions that suggest suppression is more hurtful than the feelings themselves. An example of a cultural comparison was how Koreans talked about Jesus versus Americans. Koreans brought up themes regarding Jesus’s suffering more frequently than Americans did when left to talk about Jesus openly. The book uses this example to explore how much Americans avoid discomfort of any kind, even talking about it. The book notes later on that, “You cannot get rid of negative emotions without unintentionally squelching happiness, meaning, grit, curiosity, maturity, wisdom, and personal growth.” Essentially, by suppressing the bad, you suppress the good as well.

The book reminded me of meditation techniques. It talked about how learning to live with uncomfortable feelings is often like meditation. We can live with these things while giving them less focus and letting them simply be one of the many things we experience at any moment. Meditation is the practice of stepping back and letting thoughts and feelings come and go so as to release them as quickly as they arrive.

The book also reminded me of yoga and a philosophy that has come up through one of the teachers I follow. He mentioned that yoga and life are a lot about living with comfort and discomfort at the same time. In yoga, you want to push yourself a little bit into the discomfort zone, so you keep developing yourself. However, you don’t want to push so hard that you hurt yourself. This balance is essential to growth.

On a broader scale, this book made me think about examples of avoiding discomfort in life and how we can open up to using such moments for personal growth. I know some people that think it’s odd I traveled to Europe by myself or have gone swimming in Winter even if it was at an indoor pool. I want to explore the whole self through the lense of what we tend to avoid. This is the first post in this erratic series, so stay tuned as I bring it up whenever I have something new to contribute.

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