Monday, May 30, 2016

Louis CK and the happiness antibodies

“We cannot selectively numb emotions, when we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions.”
Brene Brown

“I was in my car one time and a Bruce Springsteen song comes on and it made me really sad. And I go, “OK, I’m getting sad, I gotta get the phone and write ‘Hi’ to like 50 people”… I started to get that sad feeling, I was reaching for the phone then I said, “You know what?? Don’t!!!  Just be sad. Just let the sadness stand in the way of it, and let it hit you like a truck.” And I let it come and Bruce was singing, and I just started to feel “Oh my God,” and I pulled over and I just cried like a bitch. I cried so much. And—and it was beautiful. It was like this beautiful just as the sadness is poetic. You’re LUCKY to live sad moments.

And then I had happy feelings. Because when you let yourself feel sad, your body has like antibodies, it has happiness that comes rushing in to meet the sadness. So I was grateful to feel sad, and then I met it with true, profound happiness. It was such a trip. The thing is, because we don’t want that first bit of sad. We push it away. And you never feel completely sad or completely happy.’
Louis CK on Conan

It’s interesting to me to read these two quotes side by side. One of them is from one of the world’s most foremost experts on vulnerability and one of them is from a popular comedian.

But they both say the same thing really. It’s funny where you find wisdom in the world sometimes.

But they both make an extremely important point. When people guard their hearts and don’t allow themselves to paint with the whole palette of human emotions, it makes for a really boring picture. 

It’s a pretty common thing for men especially. I was explaining the “HALT” model to a guy the other day, and how we shouldn’t make decisions when we’re hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. He agreed with this assessment, and then playfully took my marker and added another H to my diagram.

“You had it close doc,” he explained.

"But it’s HORNY, hungry, angry, lonely, or tired."

I liked his better.

In any case it speaks to the point that we are taught at a very young age to blunt out certain emotions.  Boys don’t cry.

Now get your ass back in the game.

Which brings us back around to the idea of Louis and his happiness antibodies. Although he’s seemingly sharing a funny story on a talk show, his vignette clarifies an incredibly important point about the importance of letting ourselves experience the full range of human emotions. There is no sweet without the sour. And any human life that has known joy, triumph and resilience, has also known doubt, frustration and despair. It is these polarities that in fact help us clarify their opposite experience.

So thank you again Louis for this comic cosmic reminder. I can’t say I’ve ever cried while listening to Bruce, but I’ll be damned if I haven’t gotten some weird pangs of tearful nostalgia watching an old movie (the other day it was Dirty Dancing, that Swayze gets me every time).  Thanks for having the courage to admit as a man that this kind of stuff is okay.

Emotional toolboxes start like those big huge boxes of crayons with 100 colors in them. When we don’t let ourselves experience all of them, we end up with one of those shitty boxes with like eight crayons in it. Sure we can still draw a picture.

 But it’s not exactly refrigerator material.

Here is the clip in question. It’s well worth a watch.

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