Why "Bad Emotions" Are Good For You
Be here now, even if it sucks.
I had a rough spring.
At the very beginning of February, I popped something in my knee and I was unable to train Jiu-Jitsu for several weeks. Then, I competed in March and lost in the first round of a tournament that I had expected myself to win. Then, I flew all the way across the world to England and blew a big match in the final minute.
I made a crap ton of errors on the mat and in my life.
After this, I went by myself to Dublin and walked around drinking beer, eating doughnuts, and moping around like the world had cut me a raw deal.
I didn’t have any excuse to perform poorly — I wasn’t injured by the time my competitions rolled around, I was in good shape, and I had good weight cuts — I just didn’t win. That was it.
In the wake of these failures, I felt a lot of shame, regret for my choices over the last few months, and anxiety about the future.
Here’s how I got past those negative feelings.
Negative feelings are never going away.
I’m like, very progressive when it comes to mental health stuff. I promise.
I did several years of therapy, I’ve taken antidepressants, and I definitely believe that you should “feel your feelings”.
But it seems like people are starting to take advantage of “the feelings generation” in order to go easy on themselves.
Right now, we have a generation full of people who were taught to think that their feelings are the most important thing in their life. I learned about this a lot firsthand when I was in college. To a lot of well-meaning people, feeling good is the magnum opus of reality.
But I don’t like this way of thinking. It seems like this is a slippery slope for a generation full of people who are too weak to bear the dismal reality of life (which we’re going to talk about in a second).
Maybe I’m a bit of a masochist, but I think suffering is good. I think shame, regret, and all those other crappy feelings you get when things are going bad are good for you. You just need to learn how to deal with them without allowing them to ruin your life.
Don’t let “the feelings generation” fool you: suffering, shame, and regret are all ingredients for a happy and healthy life —they’re just not as sexy to talk about.
The obsession with “feeling good” is a great privilege.
There are a lot of assholes out there who use shame and bullying to try and get people to improve their lives.
One of them who comes to mind is the Tate guy. He’s kind of a dickhead. He’s also wrong about a lot of things.
The only thing Tate really seems to know anything about is rhetoric because he’s very convincing to a lot of people. He’s got 6.5 million people on Twitter who listen to him blabber all of his thoughts.
But this isn’t about Tate the Turd, this is about you.
Here’s a question that may piss you off:
What gives you the right to feel good all the time?
You don’t have a right to feel good all the time. No one does.
Some people actually feel bad most of the time. I met a woman at a laundromat here in Austin the other day who told me that she suffers from like every single mental illness, along with chronic pain, and she can’t even work anymore. She could barely afford to do her laundry.
When you talk to people who are struggling way more than you, it puts things in perspective.
The reality of life is grim and nihilistic.
This is probably why I don’t get invited to cocktail parties.
It’s okay though, I don’t particularly like cocktails and I can make my own cocktail weenies at home.
My problem is that though I think I am an extremely positive person (this was a skill I developed through years and years of depression when I was younger), I think about very negative things.
Part of my job as a writer is to take the most depressing ideas I can think of and try to make the world a positive place in spite of them. Existential depression is actually why I started writing in a journal in 2015 because I wanted to make sense of the agony of life that I was experiencing.
Crazy to think that here in 2023, that was almost a decade ago.
In the time I’ve spent writing and thinking about the world, I’ve realized some things that are not so great to think about. For example, as far as I can understand, nothing matters and everything is temporary, and we’re all going to die.
Your bad feelings about the world are plenty valid because there’s a lot of bad sh*t in the world.
We just need to learn how to feel bad things and then keep living anyway.
In the face of nihilism, I believe this is the only thing there is left to do.
Feel bad things and keep going.
When your feelings stop dictating your behavior, you appear to have superpowers.
This isn't me advocating for “toxic masculinity”, either. You should feel your feelings.
I’m just saying you should also feel your bad feelings in addition to your good ones. Those bad feelings are telling you something.
If you bully someone, cheat on your wife, or murder someone, we as a society tend to agree that you should feel shame and regret for those things. Those are bad things.
But what about less bad things, like neglecting your health, being an asshole online, or even just failing at big goals?
I’ll be the jerk to say it:
You should feel shame and regret for failing at stuff, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have feelings of pride at the same time. Being proud you tried to do something but ashamed it didn’t go your way is a great place to be. You just need to learn to feel shame and regret and keep going forward
Feel your shame so you can process it and not allow it to be part of your identity.
Feel pain and keep moving forward. Feel fear and do stuff anyway. Feel embarrassed and then try a scary thing again.
In time, you’ll get stronger, and you won’t feel these negative feelings as strongly anymore.
People who live this way in time live with fewer regrets.
Someone’s probably going to read this and think I’m propagating toxic masculinity.
I guess on a surface level, they’re right. I do think toughness, aggression, and risk-taking behaviors are good things for people. I’m not saying you should fight a tiger, but most of the time, negative consequences are worse in your head.
I also think that we can use shame and regret to get more people to try and do more things they know they should be doing.
So yeah, I’m being a little toxic, but a little toxicity is good for you.
That’s why when you get a flu shot they give you a little bit of the flu virus. This article won’t make you toxic the same way the flu shot doesn’t give you the flu, but it hopefully should make you feel a little bruised in the ego so that you can feel stronger in the long run.
I’m telling you to feel bad sometimes because I don’t want you to wake up one day and realize that you built an entirely false life off of protecting your ego from your insecurities.
I don’t want you to never compete because you’re scared of losing. I don’t want you to never fall in love because you’re scared of heartbreak. I don’t want you to never begin because you’re worried about the end.
I don’t want you to wake up one day and realize how incredible life could have been if you simply stopped being afraid of bad feelings.
This week’s premium article:
There will be another one out this weekend!
Click the button below for a 2-week free trial (and to get full access to my library of articles).
Thanks for reading another issue of The Grappler’s Diary. If you enjoyed this post, share it with friends!