The Downside of Positivity; Giving Yourself Permission to be Real

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Sara Zuboff is a certified Yoga instructor, massage therapist and thyroid cancer survivor.  Along with Sharon Holly, she teaches a monthly, 2-hour, yoga-based workshop at the Cancer Support Community-Benjamin Center entitled 'Revive & Thrive' in which cancer survivors create mind/body shifts to overcome overwhelm, stress and struggle.   For information on this and other free-of-charge CSC programs, please call 310-314-2555 or visit CSC's website at

At a workshop I taught last week, one of my participants had difficulty completing one of the exercises that included writing a letter of encouragement to herself.  She explained that she felt mired in feelings of sadness, anger and loss and she felt guilty over having these feelings.  Sometimes, I think when we’re going through something difficult there is a pressure to find the positive, to be positive, even when we’re not feeling up to it.

 When I received my own cancer diagnosis I had two family members who were diagnosed with different types of cancer around the same time.  Shortly after I finished treatment, they both died of their disease.  I was so wracked with guilt over my own survival, and whenever I spoke about these feelings, well-meaning friends or family encouraged me to be positive, to remember the joy of my six month old son and the beautiful family I had started with my loving husband.  And while I did feel those things, the truth is I also felt an incredible heaviness from this guilt.  Unexpressed, it cast a dark shadow over my days, making me short-tempered and on edge.  Which leads to an incredibly inconvenient truth about emotions; left unprocessed they will come out sideways, disrupting your life in unexpected ways until you turn around and face them.  However, I promise you that once acknowledged and processed you may find that your journey to positivity is much more ease-filled.

So, I write this in hopes that you’ll give yourself permission to feel all your feelings, even the scary ones.  I do have some tips that have helped me deal with mine and I hope they’ll help you deal with yours.

1.       Journal--Consider using your journal daily or whenever the mood strikes.  Write in a stream of consciousness style with the intention of leaving it all on the page.

2.       Move--Walk, run, dance, box…let your body move!  Not only will this release” feel-good” endorphins it will help release trapped, negative emotions.

3.      Speak Your Truth--Whether it’s your family, friends, therapist, or you have to go out and find a tribe of folks who have or are going through something similar, find a safe place to verbally express how you’re really feeling.  Words have power and by giving yourself space to really express ‘what’s up’ goes a long way towards empowering yourself when it comes to taking care of yourself and those powerful feelings.

4.     Feed Yourself Really Well--Whether it’s fresh whole foods (and I know that sometimes during treatment, eating is the last thing you want to do but do the best you can) or books, movies and social media;  seek out that which nourishes and uplifts rather than that which further shuts you down.

5.     Remember That This Will Pass--It may feel like forever, but these feelings, given proper care will pass and new ones will take their place. 

One of the gifts I got from going through cancer shortly after the birth of my first son is realizing it is possible to feel more than one feeling at a time.  I had periods of intense joy followed by astounding fear in a short span of time.  The trick is being present to both and allowing them to cycle through; because no feeling, when given space, is forever.  That’s the beauty of being human.

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