There’s a lot of fake news going around about happiness. Perhaps the most pervasive one is that the normal state for humans is to be happy. We did not survive by being chilled out and happy.
Now when we feel a so-called natural and normal ‘negative’ emotion, which might be totally appropriate, we think we have to get rid of it. Imagine that you lose your job, or a relationship ends, or one of your parents gets terminally ill – isn’t it appropriate in that context to feel sad, anxious, afraid?
Consider this ‘clean’ pain, the normal emotional pain that comes for free with being a human being. The problems come when you try to CAGE (control, avoid, get rid of, eliminate) that ‘clean’ pain by dealing with it ineffectively so you create a new kind of pain - dirty pain.
Dirty pain is the pain you feel when you try to shut down clean pain in a way that increases your suffering – maybe you start avoiding relationships, or you drink and eat too much to make yourself feel better, or shut yourself down so much that your life becomes constricted.
Ironically, the things you do to control the original clean pain start to control you and limit your life so now you have your original clean pain e.g sadness at the end of a relationship plus a new dirty pain e.g a drinking problem which is probably making your original emotional pain worse and taking your away from living the kind of life you want to live.
Think of it this way: clean pain is inevitable if you allow yourself to care about anything in life. Dirty pain is optional if you have better ways of dealing with clean pain.