I come from a fairly hardy family that can always find a way to laugh and smile, even at the worst of times. I really admire that about them, but on the flip side I feel like we often deal with problems by keeping busy and distracting ourselves. I’ve gotten very good at putting a mask on my emotions and acting happy, even when deep down I’m not. There are days when everything I’ve been bottling up will suddenly spill out uncontrollably, old feelings that I didn’t deal with at the time. I think that many of us have learnt to deal with our negative emotions by concealing or running away from them. We can be pretty eager to give advice to others to help them to move past feeling bad too, as if happiness is the ultimate goal. I’ve started to wonder recently if this is really the most helpful way to handle things.
Whenever I feel upset I also have a mild panic about not wanting anybody else to notice. If I’ve been crying I’ll spend a long time attempting to conceal my red puffy eyes afterwards. If somebody does notice I’m instantly beset by guilt and shame. I criticise myself for not being a stronger person and for allowing myself to get carried away with my emotions. I do this even when it’d be perfectly reasonable for me to be upset, such as during the loss of a loved one. Quite obviously, behaving in this way only makes things worse, while a little self-compassion goes a long way. Life is full of ups and downs and it’s a normal part of the human experience to feel a whole range of emotions, good and bad. Most children don’t feel guilty for crying when they’re upset, but when we become adults we find it far more uncomfortable to deal with.
Negative emotions exist to inform us about things that might not be right, and only by accepting them can we start to find a way to make our lives a little easier. I read recently in the book ‘Why Can’t I Meditate?‘ by Nigel Wellings that a common misconception about mindfulness is that it’s going to get rid of your negative thoughts, when in actuality it’s about learning to comfortably sit with them; A lot of people consider themselves to be bad at meditation for this reason. It sounds a little odd that to overcome something you have to confront it, but in doing so we can better learn how to deal with our emotions rather than allowing ourselves to get swept away by them. It’s important to remember that we gain information on how to act from both our emotional and rational self, and they don’t always match up.
I try to lend a listening ear to others when they are down, but admittedly it’s not easy to be around people that are unhappy on a regular basis. There are some people that can totally change the vibe of a place the moment they enter. It’s particularly tough on very empathetic people, and it’s fair for us to put our well-being first and politely back away if we need to. If we can learn to acknowledge a person’s emotions without taking them on ourselves however, we can better support others while also keeping ourselves safe. Most people don’t realize when they’re being overly negative or how this affects the people around them; It’s possible that they’re struggling with self-critical thoughts and a few kind words will make all the difference.
I heard some good advice the other day on how to connect with people that have depression if you don’t understand how it feels yourself. While not everybody experiences emotions to the same intensity, it’s still possible to try and relate to them by remembering the times when we’ve felt unhappy, because we’ve all been there at some point right? It’s a common complaint that being told to ‘pick yourself up’ is insensitive, and I wonder if there would be as much taboo if we had a greater acceptance of negative emotions being a part of our lives. Instead of beating ourselves up every time we fail to dispel them we could learn better ways to live with them instead.
I get the feeling that many of us never learn how to deal with negative emotions in a healthy way because we’ve spent most of our lives trying to push them aside, but it’s ok to take a moment to pause every once in a while when things get on top of us. Sometimes we just have to let them run their course and they will pass with time.
I mentioned in my last post “You’re Too Sensitive” that while I was at school my teachers had encouraged me to take courses for self-esteem. I went to a really bad school, but I believe that in this case they had the best intentions. It was interesting to look back now with what I know. It was popular for a while to focus on self-esteem, but it never worked for me. I tried courses and read books about it, and even though the advice was sound I never noticed any changes as a result of following it. Last year I learnt about another option called Mindfulness and for the first time my attempts resulted in a noticeable benefit. I felt happier and was finding it easier to motivate myself. I still struggle with bad anxiety, but I’m dealing with it better than I use to.
I enjoy a horror game or a movie from time to time, but most of the people I know find them to be really unpleasant or even distasteful. I find it difficult to explain why I’m drawn to horror, but it’s something that humans have been enjoying for a long time. I do have some barriers about what sort of content I feel is appropriate – I think this is different for each person -, but I also think that macabre is another way for us to express ourselves. It doesn’t mean that I like the thought of people suffering, but can be a way of coping with the darker side of life.
I have problems with anxiety, but horror gives me an opportunity to be brave. For some of us it’s a personal journey to test our own courage. Usually the scarier it is the better; The sense of achievement we get comes from sticking it out to the end. It can also help us to feel better about our own lives due to the stark contrast; No matter how bad times get, it doesn’t compare to our horror protagonist.
Horror gives us a bit of an adrenaline rush. I don’t actually enjoy the feeling of being scared, but I do like the relief that comes on the other side. When I reach the end credits of a survival horror game for instance, it can leave me feeling pleasantly giddy as the tension is released. This might also help to release some of the tension I’d already been feeling in my own life before starting the game. This is why I keep coming back; I walk away only remembering feeling good at the end, having forgotten all the scary parts. Apparently there have been studies that show we feel happier right after experiencing such an adrenaline rush. I can also make jokes and laugh at myself when I realize how silly I was for being scared.
I also like a good mystery, and it’s something that usually goes hand in hand with horror and our fear of the unknown. There’s that part of you that is terrified to go onwards, but at the same time curiosity gets the better of me. The exploration of the plot and learning to understand why things are happening is a part of the reward I get for sticking it out. I think I also enjoy exploration more when risk/reward plays a factor in it. I like my stories to be atmospheric too and as horror can be so emotionally heightened it can add to the engagement I feel with the world; My senses are more open to taking things in.
It’s difficult to explain why we would enjoy what are considered to be negative emotions and the reasons may differ from person to person. I think it’s OK to express ourselves in that way because it’s not real and it doesn’t have to define us. I’m actually a really sensitive person in real life, but horror gives me a bit of a thrill from a safe place.
‘Nobody thinks what I think’
– Kitchen Sink by Twenty One Pilots.
For most of my life I’ve felt unseen. Others see me as the person they want me to be and not for who I really am; Despite knowing this it can cause me to doubt myself. It’s frustrating and can feel like a fight getting others to listen. I attempted to seek understanding and comfort for this, but discovered that no matter how much I tried to explain my feelings noone was able to quite grasp them. These people have had different upbringings to me. Their minds don’t work like mine. Our beliefs and perceptions don’t match. Some experiences are hard to understand unless you’ve been through them yourself. I’ve found that it’s easy to jump to wrong conclusions based on how you think you’d feel if you went through the same thing.
My own experiences have taught me that what I feel is less important than everybody else and that my thoughts need to be validated to feel real. This mindset is risky as it relies on others to give you what you need. It’s setting you up for a lifetime of resentment. I have difficulties speaking up about what I want and it seemed selfish to me when others just took without asking or offering. They cannot understand my demons because they do not carry those same unhelpful beliefs. They might have been happy to have shared with me if I’d simply asked, but negative responses for doing so in the past have taught me that it’s safer to keep quiet. Unfortunately this is a common problem, and it’s not our fault that we have such difficulties. I also respect people that can go out and get what they want instead of just complaining about it.
I didn’t understand why there was so much hype around No Man’s Sky. Every video I watched emphasized the scale of it, but offered very little on the actual gameplay. As the release date drew closer I became more intrigued, but was still on the fence about it. When too many promises are made in regards to the scale of a game it makes me wary because there are limitations in regards to budget and time. Put too much work into one area and usually the project will suffer elsewhere. I much prefer quality over quantity. It’s cool to think that there’s this massive universe to be explored, but the majority of it will go untouched and as such I’d rather have a small and well designed area with the illusion of scale as opposed to lots of similar content that I’ll never see. I also suspected that the game might suffer from that problem of being really exciting to begin with – at the thought of all the potential space can bring – just to quickly lose engagement in its players due to the lack of goal driven things to do. A larger scale usually slows down the pace of a game too, as there could be a lot of travelling from A to B with nothing of interest in-between. Despite my doubts I eventually caved and put in a pre-order as curisosity got the better of me. I love the idea of being able to freely move between planets and while there are lots of space games available to buy, I’m still searching for the right one.
There are some wonderful thoughts on the blog ‘Into the Imagination Vortex‘ exploring the difference between letting go and giving up – Letting Go Gratitude and The Hunt For Resentment Gratitude. We frequently attach certain emotions to set actions, such as quitting. The problem is that such actions are neither good or bad, but just the decisions we make depending on the situation that we’re in. By only thinking of quitting as being a negative thing, we discourage ourselves from doing so when it’d be beneficial. A better way of thinking about it is that we’re letting go to free ourselves up for something else.
Letting go can be hard. It can make us feel like we’ve failed. We may feel guilty for letting others down. It could leave us feeling empty for removing something that we’re associated with. We may even feel grief for the loss. It also takes a lot of courage to commit to a decision that might result in us facing a new and uncertain future. The easy option is to continue plodding along as we always have, but that might not make us happy in the long run. I personally find that the biggest concern I have to making changes is in telling other people about it, because their own fears can fill us with doubt. I use to be more comfortable with giving lots of things a go, even if I was unsure. I was figuring out what was right for me by eliminating what was not. Only, there was this one time where a decision to quit was followed by words of disappointment. I know I did the right thing, because I was very unhappy, but it has put me off from trying new things. While it’s understandable that others will show concern for the decisions we make, only we know what feels right for us.
I’m not advocating giving up however. I’m a big believer in perseverance paying off. Choosing to quit is usually an informed decision, while many of us give up due to self-doubt and fear. To give up is to relinquish control, preventing us from being the person we want to be. Letting go on the other hand is to clear out what we don’t need, just as we throw out the clutter to make space in our homes. If we’re not careful we can be lumbered down with interests, values, beliefs or expectations that stopped working for us a long time ago. Choosing to get rid of this baggage can be an incredibly powerful decision to make as it frees us up to try out new possibilities. Just like the clichéd saying tells us, when one door closes another can open.
The video ‘Why To Quit‘ by Brendon Burchard is another excellent exploration of this topic that I recommend checking out.
I got home to catch Horizon last night and it happened to be about video games; covering the negative issues that games are known for, such as violence and addiction. It turned out to be a fascinating delve into how playing video games can affect our minds. You’ll usually find people sat in one camp or the other, with either what feels like a vendetta against gaming, or being on the defensive; What I liked about this programme was that it gave a more balanced viewpoint and didn’t jump to any assumptions. It may disappoint those looking for a definite answer, but games are still too young for us to fully understand the impact they have had on our lives. Research will always be ongoing and new answers supporting one claim or another will continue to crop up. Part of what I find interesting about game development as a field is the fact that we’re still learning about how we can untap the true potential of video games.
I obviously lean towards wanting to believe that games can enrich our lives, but I also try my best to keep an open mind to anything on the contrary. I believe that most things have a good and a bad side, depending on how they are utilized. You get bad games, just as you can get bad films and books. I guess that’s why it bothers me when it’s usually only the darker side of gaming that we hear about in the mainstream media – it overlooks all of those games that have had a positive influence on people’s lives. It’s also important to understand the good and the bad so that better games can be designed around that; If games do indeed have an influence on our emotions and behaviour, then this too opens up the potential for games that can promote traits such as empathy (see ‘How Can Videogames Make You a Kinder Person?‘ by PBS Game/Show and ‘A Question of Empathy‘ by Extra Credits.)