Do Not Be Afraid Of Feeling Bad – It’s Good For You

young man slumped against a wall in a dark hallway feeling bad
Emotional moment: man sitting holding face in hands, stressed, sad, feeling bad, depressed, disappointed. We’ve all been here.

# 11 on my, 99 Life Tips – A List is: Do not be afraid of feeling bad. There are things to feel bad about, and the contrast is a wonderful reminder of why gratitude is so important.

This is one of the most important Life Tips. It also swims upstream against the prevailing American cultural and social ethic. We are a country terrified of feeling bad. So, we medicate. We pre-medicate prophylactically to prevent even the chance we might feel bad. We’re so afraid to feel bad, we self-medicate. But you do not to be afraid of feeling bad. If you don’t know both how to, and when to, feel bad; if you make yourself artificially numb to negative feelings, then neither will you experience the full heights of feeling good.

This one has been difficult to learn. Obviously, one doesn’t learn to feel bad by being gifted a million bucks. I heard a preacher once say that if you pray and ask God to take away your bitterness, He won’t do it by giving you a Cadillac. The point being, we all learn to feel bad by hard practice. But face it, this life deals everyone some hard, hard blows eventually. Not to be morbid, depressing, or nihilistic, but everyone you love is going to die some day. And you will join them if not precede them. This unavoidable truth doesn’t exactly feel like Disney World.

But what do we do with that truth? I say, let’s wring all the pleasure and joy and love out of this short ride on the merry-go-round that we possibly can. And, let’s do so in the knowledge that being human is the experience of the full gamut of emotion: from heart-crushing grief to soul-enriching joy. We will face the things in life that feel bad and become more resilient, more capable of experiencing appropriate emotional responses, and more grateful.

And here is the most important point. You will feel the worst over the loss of something you loved the most. They are two sides of the same coin. It is impossible to feel bad over something you couldn’t care less about. Bad feelings are the result when something that made us feel good goes missing, or is lost to us in some way.

If you are afraid of feeling bad, my advice is never, NEVER, let yourself attach to anything that makes you feel good. 

”It all rolls into One.

And nothing comes for free.

There’s nothing you can hold

for very long.”

~ Grateful Dead: Stella Blue

It is important that we allow ourselves to put on the sweater of our bad feelings as Morrie would remind us in Mitch Albom’s excellent book Tuesdays with Morrie. There are things that will always bring some measure of hurt, pain, or sadness when we reflect on them. This is as it should be. Some things in life just hurt. This is the way of life. How dare we try to escape that by numbing out? To do so is to deny the very thing that makes us human. That sweater of pain will always feel bad whenever we choose to put it on. But we can also take it off and not wear it all day, every day.

No friends, Do not be afraid of feeling bad. We are the species that loves, and marries, and feasts, and dances in the face of future imminent death. There is an undercurrent of sadness that accompanies our reality. You can accept that fact, face it, and choose to live as full of gratitude for the myriad good things that come your way in a world where nothing lasts forever, or you can numb out in the effort to escape it. Just be aware that if you are afraid of feeling bad, you’ll disqualify yourself from feeling good, really good.


NOTE: I am not negating the fact of clinical depression, or crippling anxiety. Nor am I either vilifying or castigating those who suffer from these medical conditions. These conditions supersede mere emotional states. However, as this article from February, 2021 suggests, the over-prescription of psychiatric drugs is not without serious drawbacks, especially when many cases of depression and anxiety are contextual, non-pharmacological, and would respond better to psychotherapy than to dependence on medications.


As a final thought on this topic, let me leave you with this beautiful song, from Rich Mullins, who was tragically killed way too young on his way back from a free benefit concert for Native Americans. A horribly sad thing indeed:

“There’s bound to come some trouble to your life

But that ain’t nothing to be afraid of

There’s bound to come some trouble to your life

But that ain’t no reason to fear”

~ Rich Mullins: Bound to Come Some Trouble

2 thoughts on “Do Not Be Afraid Of Feeling Bad – It’s Good For You”

  1. Pingback: Go Granular When You Feel Bad : Greg Proffit Writing

  2. Pingback: 99 Life Tips – A List : Greg Proffit Writing

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