Is it okay to feel bad?

Contribution from Isabel Hernández Negrin from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain.

Upon running into someone, we tend to ask each other how things are going and respond that things are “good” or “bad” or “could be better.” This sounds absolutely normal. But can things be good or bad? Can I be good or bad? What does that mean? When I say things are going well, I’m usually referring to the fact that, according to my expectations, things are happening in a way that favors me; that, in this moment, there is no cause for worry. That is to say, the extent of how good or bad things are is nothing more than me and my sensation of pleasure or displeasure in response to them. Or rather, things simply are, but they are neither good nor bad. I am the one who invents the qualification, the judgment, the evaluation of what each thing is for me, according to how I feel in response to it.

The labels that we place on facts will vary according to our education, tradition, professional training, beliefs, etc.

What happens when we are not conscious of this small error? We confuse facts with our evaluation of them and say that something is good or bad, or better or worse than something else. This makes us create an image of reality that doesn’t correspond with reality itself.

A person who feels incapable of dealing with a change in their life (the death of a loved one, a breakup with a partner, a move to another country, etc.) may draw the conclusion that life is a mess, that they don’t deserve what is happening to them.

Where does this judgment come from? Perhaps from the sensation of helplessness, from the feats, the beliefs in rewards and punishments, etc. But the change in itself does not come with a label of “bad change” or “good change.” We label them ourselves and this causes us to see a distorted reality.

Apart from the distortion we arrive at, this process also causes us to make facts or people responsible for how we feel. In other words, just as we judge a fact as “bad,” we hold reality, the world, society, people, whatever, responsible for how bad we feel. Once we cast responsibility outside of ourselves, paradoxically, we distance ourselves from a solution; clearly, if we perceive that we are not the cause of our own distress, we will be unable to perceive ourselves as capable of improving our lives. We’ll expect that the solution must come from some external source, some sort of change of life circumstances.

Notice this, and observe. Facts simply are. The rest, the qualifications, are strictly of our own making.