Friday, January 15, 2010

BREAK-UP, BREAK-DOWN, BREAK-THROUGH: honoring the ugly to get to beautiful, again.

2009 was a very tough, personal year for me. One of the best and the worst yet. I broke off a long term relationship, started another one, got engaged, planned a wedding in two months, cancelled the wedding, moved three times, started a full-time masters program, and continued to run and grow two businesses.

I remember post break-up(s) how frustrated I would get for the sudden forgetfulness and clumsiness that took over the person I formally was. I’d walk into rooms forgetting why. I’d make appointments and not be able to keep them. I felt tired and demotivated. And while I showed up the next day(s) post break-up for work, ready to go, I wasn’t really ready at all. I kept wondering to myself, why am I not on top of my game?


In trying to keep it all together, I almost got away with IT. I almost got away from the big lesson. I almost got away from the pain.

Here are five insights/points/tips I picked up on why and how to honor the ugly. Honor it so you can break-through and grow beyond the breakdown.

1. There’s a difference between experiencing negative emotion and just festering. Don’t fester. Feel the darkness but look towards the light and always move towards it. They say “acknowledge” your negative feelings - which is hard. What exactly does “acknowledge” mean? That’s part of the journey, figuring that out.

2. Negative emotion narrows your breath as much as your thinking. You’re literally less creative and able to see the big picture. You’re very focused. Read Positivity by Barbara Fredrickson, there’s research that proves this.

3. Because you’re focused, you are more likely to better analyze a problem or something that doesn’t feel right. You make certain types of decisions, better. Like leaving a relationship that you shouldn’t be in. It’s hard to leave something if everything feels dandy.

4. So therefore, negative emotion is good for you - at least in small doses. When you experience a big loss, obviously you’ll experience more of it. However, on a regular day, you want to experience THREE positive emotions to every ONE negative. Read Barbara Fredrickson's book, Positivity, for research on why this magic ratio works...I’ll provide another post to talk more about this later. Want to know your ratio of positive to negative emotion? Take the PANAS test here.

5. If you don’t address deep negative experiences, your body will address them for you. Let yourself feel, experience, “acknowledge,” so you CAN move on.

For some of you, this blog may seem out of sorts for “Positively Stella!” But it’s not healthy or smart to pretend that shit doesn't go down. Life is beautiful, but it can get messy.

In Diener and Biswas-Diener’s book: Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth, they discuss that being too happy and too optimistic can actually be bad for you. On a scale from 1-10, 10 being extremely optimistic, people who are very optimistic at a 7 or 8 are FAB. But people who are at a 9 or 10, might be too peachy keen. Take the optimism test on

So why is being too positive bad?
1. If you have a health condition and just hope for the best and that everything will be fine, you might ignore signs and symptoms that need attention.
2. If you’re so deliciously satisfied with yourself and life, than you might lack the drive to take things to the next level at work. You might not challenge yourself to grow.
3. If you’re SOOOO positive that you’re almost manic, you run the risk of being insensitive, flaky, and other fun stuff.

Here's to honoring the processes that make life worth living.

With much love in both the light and the dark,

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