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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 January 18, 2019

7 Ways To Deal With Negative People

7 Ways To Deal With Negative People

Some people will have a rain cloud hanging over them, no matter what the weather is outside. Their negative attitude is toxic to your own moods, and you probably feel like there is little you can do about it.

But that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

If you want to effectively deal with negative people and be a champion of positivity, then your best route is to take definite action through some of the steps below.

1. Limit the time you spend with them.

First, let’s get this out of the way. You can be more positive than a cartoon sponge, but even your enthusiasm has a chance of being afflicted by the constant negativity of a friend.

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In fact, negativity has been proven to damage your health physically, making you vulnerable to high levels of stress and even cardiac disease. There’s no reason to get hurt because of someone else’s bad mood.

Though this may be a little tricky depending on your situation, working to spend slightly less time around negative people will keep your own spirits from slipping as well.

2. Speak up for yourself.

Don’t just absorb the comments that you are being bombarded with, especially if they are about you. It’s wise to be quick to listen and slow to speak, but being too quiet can give the person the impression that you are accepting what’s being said.

3. Don’t pretend that their behavior is “OK.”

This is an easy trap to fall into. Point out to the person that their constant negativity isn’t a good thing. We don’t want to do this because it’s far easier to let someone sit in their woes, and we’d rather just stay out of it.

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But if you want the best for this person, avoid giving the false impression that their negativity is normal.

4. Don’t make their problems your problems.

Though I consider empathy a gift, it can be a dangerous thing. When we hear the complaints of a friend or family member, we typically start to take on their burdens with them.

This is a bad habit to get into, especially if this is a person who is almost exclusively negative. These types of people are prone to embellishing and altering a story in order to gain sympathy.

Why else would they be sharing this with you?

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5. Change the subject.

When you suspect that a conversation is starting to take a turn for the negative, be a champion of positivity by changing the subject. Of course, you have to do this without ignoring what the other person said.

Acknowledge their comment, but move the conversation forward before the euphoric pleasure gained from complaining takes hold of either of you.

6. Talk about solutions, not problems.

Sometimes, changing the subject isn’t an option if you want to deal with negative people, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still be positive.

I know that when someone begins dumping complaints on me, I have a hard time knowing exactly what to say. The key is to measure your responses as solution-based.

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You can do this by asking questions like, “Well, how could this be resolved?” or, “How do you think they feel about it?”

Use discernment to find an appropriate response that will help your friend manage their perspectives.

7. Leave them behind.

Sadly, there are times when we have to move on without these friends, especially if you have exhausted your best efforts toward building a positive relationship.

If this person is a family member, you can still have a functioning relationship with them, of course, but you may still have to limit the influence they have over your wellbeing.

That being said, what are some steps you’ve taken to deal with negative people? Let us know in the comments.

You may also want to read: How to Stop the Negative Spin of Thoughts, Emotions and Actions.

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