The first line of my new children’s book, Marcy’s Having All the Feels is, “Marcy wanted to be happy. Happy is all she wanted to be.” I would guess that most of us feel very similar Marcy. We want to feel happy, confident and excited and when we don’t, we rush to change our situation or simply ignore the negative feelings we are experiencing. Why is this? Because feeling discomfort is hard.
A few weeks ago I went to the store for dish soap. I didn’t need a list (I was above that…ha!) and I came back home with $200 worth of items that did not include dish soap. My first reaction was to blame the cashier for not putting it in my bag. When I couldn’t find the item on the receipt, I went into an emotional spin and the negative self-talk began: I can’t believe I forgot the soap! That’s what I went to the store for! How could I be so forgetful? I knew I should have made a list! After beating myself up for a good 15 minutes I did the only rational thing a person could do: order dish soap on Amazon Prime and have it delivered within two hours. Ahhh! Discomfort gone.
Our current society is set up to avoid discomfort. We can get dish soap in two hours, find a date in less than an hour, have food delivered in 30 minutes and get pre-qualified to buy a house in less than 10. We no longer have to wait to feel better. With a click of a button, we’ll get just what we need. But what happens when what used to make us feel better no longer does? What happens when our maladaptive coping strategies no longer work? We are flooded with the same emotions we were trying so hard to avoid.
As parents, caregivers and educators we need to help children learn how to manage discomfort. While they’re still in childhood and before maladaptive coping strategies are formed, we need to let them fail and not bail them out when they struggle. We need to model how to manage negative feelings ourselves and to normalize that it isn’t realistic to be happy all the time. Life is filled with happy moments as well as sad ones, angry ones and times of disappointment. All of those moments strung together make a meaningful life. I hope you enjoy the book and are able to help a child you care about feel ALL the feelings.