Dani Kam, Content Writer at Noom
Low moods have haunted me my whole life. Like a shadow, they’ve followed me to every state, apartment, and situation I’ve found myself in. They’ve kept me from enjoying the present moment and reaching my full potential (whether that was excelling in my career or saying “yes” to spontaneous plans). I’ve always felt helpless against their wily ways because, unlike an actual ghost, it’s not like I could call an apparition removal service. And because I couldn’t exactly sage the evil spirits of my emotions away, I finally tried something new.
I sat with the feelings.
Before you close this tab and say “yeah, I’m absolutely not sitting with my feelings, but warmest regards,” just know that I get it. Past me would’ve done the same thing—she ran away from her feelings faster than Kobayashi eats hot dogs. Running away was easier than letting my feelings wash over me and pull me down beneath the earth’s surface. Sitting with them was hard, uncomfortable, and overwhelming. It felt like I was in a quicksand of my own emotions, and I’d never make my way out. But, I’ve since learned that sitting with sadness, anxiety, or something else is actually a lot easier…even though it may seem counterintuitive. As humans, we naturally seek out emotions that make us feel good, and we protect ourselves at all costs in order to not experience emotions that make us feel bad. However, a little discomfort in the short term makes the long term much more comfortable.
My first foray into sitting with my feelings was short-lived. I exclaimed “immediately no” and distracted myself with a personal pizza and reality TV. While that experience was delicious and entertaining, the feelings came back. The second time, I had a straight-up panic attack. I’d be lying if I said it went perfectly the third, or even the fourth, time. At this point, I thought I’d be forever exhausted from the eternal 5K I was sprinting to escape my problems. But then, my life changed.
I read a quote. It’s okay, you have full permission to laugh because I’m laughing, too. It sounds fake and corny and I hate myself a little bit for admitting this. But as a writer, words speak to me. And these words really hit home. I found the following poem at a particularly low point, and it continued to show up for me when I needed it the most.
The Guest House
“This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.”
I’m not crying, you’re crying.
After stumbling upon these words, I thought, “this guy sounds smart, and it’d be smart of me to listen to a smart person.” It also made sense to me, logically: if you let your feelings hang out with you and stay a little while, they won’t feel the need to come knocking on your door every two seconds. Yeah, they may overstay their welcome, but it’s up to you to be a gracious host. Because guess what? The next house guest could be really cool with a lot to offer. So, I tried again.
This time around, I imagined my feelings as real house guests to help me get super cozy with this idea. My anger? She’s a teenage girl with a nose ring, beanie, leather jacket, and dark black eyeliner who blasts emo music. My sadness? Think: Moaning Myrtle from Harry Potter, but with a cuter hairdo. My frustration? A permanently stressed-out receptionist who deals with rude customers 24/7. Thinking of my feelings as separate entities from myself helped me to distance myself from the negative emotions.
Sometimes, we make jokes. Sometimes, we cry. Sometimes, we hold hands and sing “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen. But as long as I’m listening to them, validating their experiences, and letting them do their thing, they keep it pretty chill. And ya know what? Since I’ve started welcoming them in and offering to hang their coats, they’ve left earlier and earlier each visit. And then my calm (a hippie from Woodstock who likes to dance in fields of flowers), my laughter (a fast-talking stand-up comedian with a commanding stage presence), and my excitement (a 5-year-old seeing Disney World for the first time), show up ready to party.
Okay, reading a quote didn’t change my life—putting it into practice did. I now know that my negative emotions just want to be heard. And by hearing them and letting them kick off their shoes and get comfy in my house, I’ve created a safe space for my more positive emotions to come through. So, I invite you to sit with your feelings and treat each guest honorably. They could be clearing you out to enjoy the present moment, reach your full potential, or something even better.