Whether it came from another person or from the constant internal commentary of our own minds, we have all been told to Cheer Up, in one way or another. At times, this might be the gentle push out of rumination that we need or it can be the lifeline we cling to just to make it to tomorrow. Oftentimes, however, it only serves to needlessly compound our suffering.
The habit of denying our pain is developed very young. We were learning how to fit in and along the way, we were taught about cry babies, to just grow up and of course, smile. When given such directives from another, it often seemed born out of frustration or anger. However when we peel away at it, just a little, we see that it was their own suffering that spurred them to offer such harsh and unyielding commands. These orders were given in an effort to ease the burden of their own helplessness when confronted with another person’s pain.
When we deny our difficult or painful emotions, we compound the belief that we are not acceptable by adding to our laundry list of what’s wrong with us. We then cling to the comfort and familiarity that the projection of competence affords us. We neglect our suffering, which gives it no choice but to grow and invade other parts of our lives. We yell at someone for a minor mishap. We neglect our bodies by over or under nourishing them. We try countless ways to distract ourselves from the epic meltdown within.
Some days, putting on a smile is the only tool we have, and it’s okay to use it with awareness. In doing so we honour the inherent suffering in being human and give ourselves permission to acclimate to it in whatever way feels the safest and most genuine at the time.
With time and compassionate practice, we might find we have more space for our pain. The good times become even sweeter as they are no longer tainted by dismissed suffering. Now that is something to be cheerful about.