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Why You Should Always Embrace Negative Emotions

Why You Should Always Embrace Negative Emotions

One of the biggest misperceptions about personal development is that it leads to permanent, unflappable happiness. The point of personal development isn’t to feel happy all the time. Instead, it’s to become more aware of what we’re feeling and to have greater self-mastery over how we respond to our feelings.

The truth is that so-called “negative” emotions are important. Here’s why:

Negative emotions are a natural part of life

Just as the colours of the rainbow run from one end of a spectrum to the other, so do our emotions. We might prefer the experience of certain emotions, but whether we like it or not they will all show up at certain points. Although we can influence our emotions, we can’t control them and we certainly can’t get rid of our less desirable feelings on demand.

In Buddhism, one of the Four Noble Truths is that pain exists, but suffering is optional. Another way of understanding this is to use the equation:

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Suffering = Pain x Resistance

The more we resist negative emotions, the more we will suffer. We are going to feel negative emotions, whether we like it or not. Although it sounds counterintuitive, accepting them means we’re less likely to suffer.

Negative emotions are useful

Not only are negative emotions a natural part of life, but they are that way for a good reason. Fear, anger, hurt, rejection — all these feelings are useful emotional responses to certain situations. For example, fear helps us survive. Without fear, we’d be crossing the road without looking. We wouldn’t think twice about walking alone through a dodgy part of town in the middle of the night. We’d get ourselves into all kinds of physically dangerous situations.

Sometimes these feelings crop up in inopportune or unwanted situations. For example, we might feel the same kind of fear when we think about public speaking as we do when we imagine scaling Everest. The solution isn’t to never feel fear, though. Instead, it’s to learn how to manage it so it can serve it’s natural purpose.

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How to embrace negative emotions

1. Reframe them from “negative,” “bad,” or “unhelpful” to “uncomfortable.”

So-called negative feelings get a bad rap because they feel uncomfortable. Just because they feel uncomfortable, however, doesn’t mean they’re negative (remember, they’re actually helpful).

If you’re struggling to embrace negative emotions, reframe them as “uncomfortable.” With this, you acknowledge your feelings without sending yourself the message they are bad or wrong.

2. Separate out the feeling from the story or meaning you attach to it.

When we struggle to accept certain feelings, it’s usually because we’re attaching a story or meaning to the feeling.

“I feel jealous…and it’s wrong to feel jealous.

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“I’m feeling angry…and women shouldn’t feel angry.

If we’re harbouring these beliefs and stories, it’s hard to embrace our negative emotions. Notice the meanings and stories you’re attaching to your feelings. Then, separate your objective experience of the feeling from the meaning or story you’re attaching to it.

3. Allow yourself to truly feel the feeling.

Another counter-intuitive truth about feelings is the more we try to resist them, the stronger they get. If we let ourselves feel, however, the intensity dissapates.

Let the feeling wash over you. Feel the physical sensations that come with it and take a few deep breaths as you experience it. You might notice that even a few seconds of this is enough before the feeling fades.

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4. Get curious about the message in the feeling

All feelings happen for a reason. The reason might not be immediately obvious, nor might it be directly related to the present situation. But it will be there.

Instead of writing off negative emotions, practice asking “What is the lesson here? What can I learn from this experience?” Remember, negative emotions are your own internal warning system that something is off-kilter.

The more exploration you’re wiling to do, the more information you’ll have. Then, you can take action to right the balance and bring harmony back into your world.

Featured photo credit: angela n. via flickr.com

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

7 Powerful Questions To Find Out What You Want To Do With Your Life

7 Powerful Questions To Find Out What You Want To Do With Your Life

What do I want to do with my life? It’s a question all of us think about at one point or another.

For some, the answer comes easily. For others, it takes a lifetime to figure out.

It’s easy to just go through the motions and continue to do what’s comfortable and familiar. But for those of you who seek fulfillment, who want to do more, these questions will help you paint a clearer picture of what you want to do with your life.

1. What are the things I’m most passionate about?

The first step to living a more fulfilling life is to think about the things that you’re passionate about.

What do you love? What fulfills you? What “work” do you do that doesn’t feel like work? Maybe you enjoy writing, maybe you love working with animals or maybe you have a knack for photography.

The point is, figure out what you love doing, then do more of it.

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2. What are my greatest accomplishments in life so far?

Think about your past experiences and the things in your life you’re most proud of.

How did those accomplishments make you feel? Pretty darn good, right? So why not try and emulate those experiences and feelings?

If you ran a marathon once and loved the feeling you had afterwards, start training for another one. If your child grew up to be a star athlete or musician because of your teachings, then be a coach or mentor for other kids.

Continue to do the things that have been most fulfilling for you.

3. If my life had absolutely no limits, what would I choose to have and what would I choose to do?

Here’s a cool exercise: Think about what you would do if you had no limits.

If you had all the money and time in the world, where would you go? What would you do? Who would you spend time with?

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These answers can help you figure out what you want to do with your life. It doesn’t mean you need millions of dollars to be happy though.

What it does mean is answering these questions will help you set goals to reach certain milestones and create a path toward happiness and fulfillment. Which leads to our next question …

4. What are my goals in life?

Goals are a necessary component to set you up for a happy future. So answer these questions:

Once you figure out the answers to each of these, you’ll have a much better idea of what you should do with your life.

5. Whom do I admire most in the world?

Following the path of successful people can set you up for success.

Think about the people you respect and admire most. What are their best qualities? Why do you respect them? What can you learn from them?

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You’re the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.[1] So don’t waste your time with people who hold you back from achieving your dreams.

Spend more time with happy, successful, optimistic people and you’ll become one of them.

6. What do I not like to do?

An important part of figuring out what you want to do with your life is honestly assessing what you don’t want to do.

What are the things you despise? What bugs you the most about your current job?

Maybe you hate meetings even though you sit through 6 hours of them every day. If that’s the case, find a job where you can work more independently.

The point is, if you want something to change in your life, you need to take action. Which leads to our final question …

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7. How hard am I willing to work to get what I want?

Great accomplishments never come easy. If you want to do great things with your life, you’re going to have to make a great effort. That will probably mean putting in more hours the average person, getting outside your comfort zone and learning as much as you can to achieve as much as you can.

But here’s the cool part: it’s often the journey that is the most fulfilling part. It’s during these seemingly small, insignificant moments that you’ll often find that “aha” moments that helps you answer the question,

“What do I want to do with my life?”

So take the first step toward improving your life. You won’t regret it.

Featured photo credit: Andrew Ly via unsplash.com

Reference

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