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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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Hannah Braime

Hannah is a coach who believes the world is a richer place when we have the courage to be fully self-expressed.

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Last Updated on June 26, 2020

10 Things To Remember When Everything Goes Wrong

10 Things To Remember When Everything Goes Wrong

Problems and heartaches in life are inevitable. However, there are some things to remember when you’re right in the thick of it that can help you get through it. When everything seems to be going wrong, practice telling yourself these things.

1. This Too Shall Pass

Sometimes life’s rough patches feel like they’re going to last forever. Whether you’re dealing with work-related issues, family problems, or stressful situations, very few problems last for a lifetime. So remind yourself, that things won’t be this bad forever.

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2. Some Things are Going Right

When things are going wrong, it’s hard to recognize what is going right. It’s easy to screen out the good things and only focus on the bad things. Remind yourself that some things are going right. Purposely look for the positive, even if it is something very small.

3. I Have Some Control

One of the most most important things to remember is that you have some control of the situation. Even if you aren’t in complete control of the situation, one thing you can always control is your attitude and reaction. Focus on managing what is within your control.

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4. I Can Ask for Help

Asking for help can be hard sometimes. However, it’s one of the best ways to deal with tough situations. Tell people what you need specifically if they offer to help. Don’t be afraid to call on friends and family and ask them for help, whether you need financial assistance, emotional support, or practical help.

5. Much of This Won’t Matter in a Few Years

Most of the problems we worry about today won’t actually matter five years from now. Remind yourself that whatever is going wrong now is only a small percentage of your actual life. Even if you’re dealing with a major problem, like a loved one’s illness, remember that a lot of good things are likely to happen in the course of a year or two as well.

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6. I Can Handle This

A lack of confidence in handling tough times can add to stress. One of the best things to remember is that you can handle tough situations. Even though you might feel angry, hurt, disappointed, or sad, it won’t kill you. You can get through it.

7. Something Good Will Come Out of This

No matter how bad a situation is, it’s almost certain that something good will come out of it. At the very least, it’s likely that you will learn a life lesson. Perhaps you learn not to repeat the same mistake in the future or maybe you move on from a bad situation and find something better. Look for the one good thing that can result when bad things happen.

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8. I Can Accept What’s Out of my Control

There are many things that aren’t within your control. You can’t change the past, another person’s behavior, or a loved one’s health issues. Don’t waste time trying to force others to change or trying to make things be different if it isn’t within your control. Investing time and energy into trying to things you can’t will cause you to feel helpless and exhausted. Acceptance is one of the best way to establish resilience.

9. I Have Overcome Past Difficulties

One of the things to remember when you’re facing difficulties, is that you’ve handled problems in the past. Don’t overlook past difficulties that you’ve dealt with successfully. Remind yourself of all the past problems you’ve overcome and you’ll gain confidence in dealing with the current issues.

10. I Need to Take Care of Myself

When everything seems to be going wrong, take care of yourself. Get plenty of rest, get some exercise, eat healthy, and spend some time doing leisure activities. When you’re taking better care of yourself you’ll be better equipped to deal with your problems.

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Featured photo credit: NeONBRAND via unsplash.com

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