Books We Love: Constructive Wallowing

Reviewed by Feliza David

In a culture where we’re told to accentuate the positive, we often believe that acknowledging our negative feelings will give them power. However, the opposite is true: Struggling against any feeling only makes it more powerful.

As an entrepreneur, you already know that following your dream can mean incredible highs and stomach-dropping lows. A grateful shout-out from a highly satisfied client can be just as quickly followed by the crushing jealousy that follows a colleague’s (seemingly) overnight success.

In “Constructive Wallowing: How to Beat Bad Feelings by Letting Yourself Have Them,” Tina Gilbertson provides witty, helpful ways to move past these difficult (but inevitable) feelings so we can get on with our lives.

Things We Learned

Negative Feelings are Inescapable… And That’s Okay

You can’t run from your feelings, though most of us try. Many of us are so accustomed to jumping through hoops to avoid our negative feelings that we don’t even realize we’re fighting a losing battle.

For example, let’s imagine that pinch of jealousy you feel when a colleague snags a prestigious client. Many of us will, at first, try not to acknowledge the existence of our negative feeling. But after hours or days of trying to ignore it, the jealousy will likely still be with us because we haven’t yet acknowledged the reality of our current state of mind.

Instead of running from our feelings, let’s give ourselves an important gift and face them.


Accepting Negative Feelings Means Accepting Ourselves

While most of us do a great job basking in the good moments, it can be hard for us to know what to do with ourselves when negative feelings strike.

Often, when we find ourselves feeling angry, pessimistic, or frustrated, we’ll try to squash those feelings altogether because we’ve been told that we shouldn’t focus on unpleasant thoughts.

We should absolutely take time to be grateful for what we have, but there’s a dark side to this focus on positivity. Rejecting our not-so-pretty feelings means rejecting a part of ourselves.


Suppressing Your Feelings is Inefficient

We’ve already established that spending hours or days trying to ignore an unpleasant feeling will do nothing to make it go away, and in the meantime, you’ll only be making your life more difficult. The good news: Coping with your feelings directly can be a much quicker solution. Since the initial surge of an emotion is finished in 90 seconds or less, why not simply face the feeling head-on? (Anything else is just unproductive.)

Yes, doing a bit of constructive wallowing can feel unpleasant, but it’s like ripping off a Band-Aid…

Unpleasant in the moment, but much faster than we think.

If we stop spending so much time on avoidance, we can move through our negative emotions and into more productive territory sooner than we think.

Favorite Quote

The fastest way out of emotional pain is by going through it, i.e., by feeling it and tolerating it until it passes. Trying not to feel the way we do only prolongs our bad feelings, gives power to them, and cements our misery in place. …[W]e can struggle against our pain today, but doing so will only invite continued struggle tomorrow.

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