Elephants or Feathers?

In our workshops, we ask our participants to write the Elephants in the Room at their workplace – the ‘glad’ ones that no one seems to express outright and the ‘sad’ ones that no one dares to address. One sad elephant stood out and it read: “I know that this team building is about smiling and having positive energy, but how about the times when you really need to feel the anger, sadness, and the frustrations? Because it’s normal, it’s part of being human.”

I concur.

We have 5 main emotions that are present within us the day we were born. In the movie Inside Out, you have: Joy, Anger, Disgust, Fear, and Sadness. These 5 emotions contribute to Riley’s primary behaviors in the film.

Joy doesn’t let Sadness touch the main controls in Riley’s brain so she will not feel down. This is good of Joy to do. But, there is something that we call Blind Optimism. Business Strategist and Life Coach, Sharon Spano, elaborates: “In this scenario, a person has the tendency to focus on the positive aspects of a plan or a situation, but is virtually ‘blind’ to any potential pitfalls.” The risks of being blind are high when you’ve been exposed to too much light. Try looking at the sun for a good 5 seconds then look away. It’s hard to see, right? Sometimes, we need darkness to balance everything. Yin and Yang. Seeing both the good and the bad, light and dark, joy and sadness, of a situation or a plan is Realistic Optimism. It is about recognizing the pitfalls of a situation and still remain optimistic in the process.

When the time comes when you just can’t help but be sad, angry, and frustrated, be. There is nothing wrong with it. What matters most is we don’t dwell on these feelings for a long time. In order not to get stuck, you must turn that negativity into something good. Turn your sadness, anger, and frustration and transform them into useful energy. After all, there is no positive or negative emotion – only resourceful and unresourceful emotions.

In your sadness or frustration, write a poem or a short story about it. If you want, you can draw or listen to calming music. You can cry your heart out all you want until that sadness is purged out of you. Go to your bedroom or the comfort room then cry a river until you don’t hurt anymore.

When you’re angry, release it. You can go to the gym and translate that anger into positive energy. As you lift those weights, you’re making yourself a beauty of robust proportions. If you’re not a fan of working out, release it in a way that it’s cathartic so you don’t have to suppress all your anger then explode all at once like a volcano. You can go to an anger room where you can break stuff in a secured environment. It’s safe and you can leave happy after breaking all those things. I have a friend who would punch a soft pillow whenever she’s angry. I asked her why and she said that the moment we get angry, we’re already hurting ourselves.

You can also get frustrated when things aren’t going as you planned them to be. Step back and take a deep breath. Shift your focus on what can be done then carry on from there. When you don’t feel like shining today, rest your fire for a bit then stand up 10 times stronger and brighter! When this happens in our workplace, we say “Expire to exfire”. Expire means the death of fire. There’s no coming back. While Exfire means fire that just got exhausted but will be coming back. We expire to exfire.

There are a lot of ways on how you can create something good out of something unpleasant. If we didn’t know darkness, we won’t know what light is. It’s the same with dealing with sadness, frustration, and anger. If we don’t have a full grasp of what these emotions are, then we wouldn’t know what it feels to float like a feather. We’d only be a sad elephant in the room. 

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