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Can You Be Positive if You’re Not Feeling It?

By Kathleen Metcalfe June 25, 2023 Mindset

“So much pressure to be positive and I am down!” This is a phrase I hear over and over from my clients. Of course, the reason they are seeing a psychotherapist is because things aren’t going well. Something in their lives needs to change. But surely the change isn’t to be ‘up’ all the time.

I am going to say something controversial here that I regularly tell my clients:

It is ok to be down in the dumps and depressed every once and awhile. It is inevitable.

The Pressure to Be Positive – All the Time

We are told all the time to turn lemons into lemonade. I do it myself! After my last column for Sixty and Me, Turn Loneliness into Solitude, I was touched by the responses. There is so much sadness out there, and those of us in the helping professions want to help ease the burden. We have tools that we know can be of real assistance, and we try hard to help our clients make things better.

But there is another side to it. If we are going to be full human beings, we cannot avoid sadness. Sorrow and loss are part of living. Periods of lack of confidence, lack of hope and lack of energy are inevitable. There is nothing wrong with us if we experience these feelings.

Feel It, Then Let It Pass

To me, the point is just not to be stuck there. I think those feelings should come and go. I have the image of being at the seashore, watching the waves come in and go out. Feelings can be like waves, and if we let them, they will recede like the waves of water we enjoy watching.

I want to emphasize ‘if we let them’ because we can actually hold on to waves of depressive feelings and, unwittingly, keep them from flowing out of us if we are not paying attention.

“What is the matter with me; I am such a loser,” we tell ourselves. Or, “I am afraid I will have this feeling for the rest of my life.” We don’t just feel something. We compound the feeling with our negative thoughts and fears by not letting go, adding another layer of negativity, and not letting the emotions naturally recede like a wave.

What if we just thought, “Too bad. I feel down today. Maybe I will have a bubble bath, play some hurtin’ music and go to bed early.” In other words, be kind to ourselves as in, “This too shall pass.”

We can give ourselves permission to have the sad feeling without panicking about it, without adding a layer of criticism that would keep the feeling stuck there and make it worse. It is difficult enough to feel bad; we don’t want to feel like a bad person for having the feeling in the first place.

Instead, we can try to allow a natural process to take effect despite our fears. We can just breathe, and try to stay in the present. The wave rolled in. It is likely to roll out of its own accord – if we let it.

I am sharing these thoughts to connect with anyone who needs to hear them. Even though I am part of a helping community of experienced professionals, sometimes I think just a little advice and reassurance can go a long way.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Do you feel like you need to be positive all the time? What happens when you feel down? Do you get stuck in the down feeling, or do you let it pass?

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Feeling down? I have had 2 spinal fusions and both sacroiliacs fused. The left sacroiliac hurts more than it did for the last 40 years. My sixth glaucoma surgery in my left eye has resulted in double vision. I have fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. Yes, I feel down more than I should. I always tell people, who say they can’t believe that I smile as much as I do, that if I don’t smile I would cry. I seem to be able to feel better quickly.


Well said. I’m learning to allow myself to be gentle on me when I’ve experienced pain or hurt instead of beat myself up for not being positive 24/7. Allow myself some down time to reflect, heal and move on. Also allowing myself to say no and distance myself from those that cause me stress. Life is too short for drama- causing people!

Lana Muir

Thankfully I was born an optimist with a happy outlook on life. I feel no need to be positive all of the time – if I am ruminating, feeling ultra sad, focusing on things that make me unhappy, I tend to go inward and not burden others. They have their own trials and tribulations. There are those among us who love misery, absolutely love it. It garners much-needed attention. I avoid those personality types. I would never get stuck in a down feeling, ever! I simply let it pass. We can choose our attitude and life is so much sweeter going into the sunlight rather than the darkness.

Donna Minkel

In October 2022, I decided I needed to sort out the unpleasant feelings that were in my life and sought out a remarkable therapist. I learned a valuable tool to just feel the emotion until I felt better. It’s okay to feel the gamut of emotions life brings. I’m able to ride my emotions but most importantly I understand them and that is real freedom. ✌️☮️🕊

Marian Camden

I’m a clinical psychologist and I couldn’t agree more! There is such a thing as toxic positivity, this push to change negative feelings immediately into something positive. That isn’t normal for us humans and I think just pushes the inevitable sad, lonely, or angry feelings into the unconscious where they continue to live but without our ability just to own them, be kind to ourselves through them, and let them pass. Great article!


I find so hard to get to a point where these feelings will pass, I just feel stuck and lost, I had a bad childhood and I try not to let it, affect my life now, but I’m sure it dose, if I could expect tomorrow is going to be a brighter day would be great


The Author

Kathleen has developed a unique set of skills through her diverse experiences in corporate boardrooms, international war zones, and other environments. Kathleen advises and coaches people going through difficult situations. She finds her work to be fulfilling and enjoys the opportunity to bring her wealth of experience to the table.

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