It’s clear that many of us avoid the so-called “difficult” emotions, such as sadness, fear, or anger, but in so doing, we also inadvertently avoid the gifts and strengths these emotion bring us. Though it is very unfortunate, it makes sense that we avoid these emotions, because they’ve gotten such terrible press. It is almost blasphemous in some circles to suggest that difficult emotions have a place in our intelligence and a purpose in our lives.
However, I’ve been interested to see that many of us also avoid the so-called “positive” emotions as well. We denigrate happy people by calling them slaphappy, or blissful idiots, and sadly, we lose touch with the gifts of the happiness-based emotions (which I simplify into happiness, contentment, and joy, but you can also add laughter, bliss, gaiety, exuberance, and so on).
Let’s look at the gifts and skills contentment brings us.
The Gifts of Contentment
Satisfaction ~ Self Esteem ~ Enjoyment ~ Renewal ~ Fulfillment
Contentment is an emotion that you feel when it’s time to celebrate your behavior, your achievements, and your willingness to challenge yourself. Many of us don’t welcome contentment because we’ve been told that it’s vain or pompous to think well of ourselves. This is a problem, because contentment actually gives us the permission and courage to strive for difficult goals. If we don’t welcome our contentment, it’s very hard to appreciate ourselves, which means it’s hard to gather the courage we need to move forward in our lives.
Contentment is related to happiness, but the two emotions are different from one another. Happiness tends to anticipate a bright future, while contentment tends to arise after an inner achievement. Contentment arises when you’re living up to your own expectations and your internal moral code, and when you’ve accomplished an important goal or done your work well and properly. Contentment comes forward in response to your tangible actions and your mastery of clear-cut challenges.
Contentment also arises when you’ve successfully navigated through your difficult emotions – especially your angers, hatreds, and shames (these emotions help you create and restore boundaries — if you know how to work with them properly). When you’ve restored your boundaries, honored the boundaries of others, and corrected your actions or made amends, your contentment will come forward to confirm and validate your excellent behavior. Authentic contentment arises reliably when you respect yourself and others, and when you respect your emotions and allow them to inform your behavior.