Good Feelings Can Scare you into the Familiar Arms of the Bad Feelings

Good feelings turn bad so quick. Damn! You know only too well that pattern of feeling great one minute and then boom, you hear bad news, or your phone runs out of juice – those positive feelings get wiped out in a nanosecond, and your efforts to retrieve them are useless. It’s understandable that you get disheartened and treat good feelings with suspicion. The positive feelings become more threatening as you wait for the axe to fall – so the good feelings aren’t really good – they are a momentary thrill but one you have to pay for with long periods of resentment, annoyance and a sense of defeat.

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Good Feelings Can be a Harbinger of Nasty Negative Emotions

It’s great when you are excited, looking forward to a day off from the rat race; or happy that you finally got the latest version of your favorite show – it’s exhilarating; you’re on a high with good feelings that seem to overwhelm you. It’s hard to focus on the mundane day-to-day stuff because the good feelings are so powerful. You’re energized and elated, drunk on good feelings. You feel like a conquering master  sheathed in a protective layer of invincibility.

But then the anticipation of the good feelings turns to anxiety – worry that you’ll get called into work on your day off; or that your new smart phone will be damaged and lose all your pictures when the data is transferred.

The positive feelings fade away – and are replaced by fear and torment that chews you up, drains your sap and leaves you shriveled. You’re angry that the good feelings disappeared so easily and furious that you are left with images of depletion and destruction bleeping on your inner screen.

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Good Feelings Stir up Fears of Theft, Loss and Spoiling

Jasmine a 40-year-old Interior Decorator was about to have her company go public and get an infusion of cash from investors so that she could market her brand of soothing design from sustainable materials. She did the leg work, built up a customer base, got coverage in national magazines and had a good team of reliable sources to maintain her high standards. Two weeks before her company had its debut on the Stock Market, Jasmine’s excitement melted. Her sense of achievement was just that – a sense – an item that she checked off her list of life goals. The check mark felt like a death knell, rather than a celebratory bell.

Negative cycles of thought infused Jasmine to such a degree that she had panic attacks when her mind was not focused on some manual activity. The thoughts ranged from being rejected by the Stock Market at the last minute to losing her customers and her business going bust in short order.

Getting into a state of trepidation and agitation kept Jasmine in a holding pattern between the ecstasy of the positive feelings and the disappointment of the bad ones she convinced herself was on the way. Her anxiety state focused on what she could lose. It was an inoculation against real loss which if it came couldn’t be any worse. But there is a much more important function that the disappearance of the good feelings serve.

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Good Feelings of Competency Disrupt Your Familiar Sense of Being Wronged in Life

Growing up Jasmine strived to be a “good girl” who sacrificed for her family and friends.  The good feelings of power through silent suffering and her martyred stance was hugely fulfilling for her. She was proud of her ability to keep doing the “right” thing – but hurt and angry by family and friends who didn’t put her on their pedestals and make her feel special, valuable and the apple of their eyes.

Good feelings coming from the suffering stance were immensely more potent, powerful and enduring than any good feeling coming from having her business given international media exposure.  The good feelings that arose from a sense of being a “good girl” enabled her to experience others as bad – so the good feelings from this stance were pure and untarnished. Giving up the sense of being a perfect person who should be honored for her purity through self-sacrifice would mean she would have to live with good and bad mixed up. The idea of that made Jasmine go “yuk.”

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Good Feelings Threaten the Purity of Good – Versus Bad Division

Splitting good things from bad things makes it simpler to deal with life – you feel safer and trust the ‘good’ thing because it gives you good feelings. The ‘bad’ things can be kept at bay by making them unsafe – enemies, threatening your well-being. So by keeping good feelings split off from bad feelings, the former are more exquisite and elevating.

But because the good feelings are split off, they intrinsically account for a small part of real life experience. The existence of the plethora of other more varied and nuanced experiences hovers around those enlivening feelings protected in a membrane. Those very good feelings which are now threatened become bad because they are uncomfortable in the position of threat. They let you down. They can’t protect you for very long from the reality of the whole range of life experience. You end up stressed.

Good Feelings Alone Deny Reality and End up Being Bad

The loss of good feelings is a function of how hard it is to accept and live in reality. As good feelings ebb and reality seeps in, the reality of the outside world can feel harsh, intrusive and callous. Who would want to welcome such a world?

Scared she would sabotage her business success, Jasmine sought individual counseling. Over time she came to understand that it’s the same world with the same people that provided her with the good feelings. She got depressed because of it meant giving up the notion that she had the power to control the world such that she could always be the saint and everyone else  be the devil. Healing the split between the good and bad feelings means relinquishing that power, that false sense of control. The gains are enormous and everlasting. Jasmine could always have people close and still have a thriving business.


Copyright, Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D. 2020


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