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5 Steps To Let Your Negative Emotions Out

5 Steps To Let Your Negative Emotions Out

Emotions can be a veritable minefield, they can be our greatest friend or our worst enemy. Some have a way of sneaking up on you when you least expect it whilst others like to mark out a comfortable spot in your psyche and settle in for the long haul.

If we are talking about positive emotions such as joy or excitement we tend to welcome them in with open arms and an open ended invite. Yet if these emotions fall on the negative side such as anxiety or anger they are firmly told their name isn’t on the list and they’re not getting in. The problem with this approach is that it’s impossible to shut out negative emotions yet ride off into the sunset with the positive ones, they just cannot be cherry-picked.

These negative nasties are part of our emotional make-up. You can’t outrun then and you can’t hide from them. Instead of being held hostage at their mercy each time they appear perhaps a shift in perspective is needed. In trying to understand their purpose and learn how to release them in a healthy way we can develop a better relationship with them so that they show up as overnight guests instead of moving in for good.

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Changing our emotional behavior is never easy but these 5 steps might help to show how we can learn to release negative emotions in an emotionally safe way:

1. Feel The Feelings

Have you ever noticed how young children deal with their wild array of emotions? They simply abandon whatever they’re in the middle of and let the emotion pass through them. Whilst it might not look like an emotionally mature reaction to sit down in the middle of Target and wail at the top of their lungs this is actually where kids have one over us. They instinctually feel their feelings. The interesting part about this is that it’s usually a very quick process (yet probably feels like a lifetime to most parents).

I’ve yet to meet a 6 year old harboring a year-long grudge over not being allowed a piece of cake. They get upset, stamp their feet and move the hell on. It’s actually how we as humans are designed, yet as we grow older it becomes less socially acceptable to simply stop in the middle of the supermarket and start screaming.

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It is of vital importance to understand that emotions are simply energy. If we refuse to deal with them they go and find a hiding place deep inside our body. Stuffing our feelings down by pretending they don’t exist or lying to ourselves simply prolongs the process. Instead, when you notice a negative emotion coming in try to actually sit with it for a while. No easy feat, it can be incredibly intense initially. Notice which part of your body it’s affecting, name the emotion. In saying out loud “I’m feeling anxious right now’ it can loosen its grip.

Unfortunately negative emotions tend to come with a physical reaction, for example you can literally shake with anger or become nauseous from anxiety. Find a quiet place and let your body do what it needs to do. Cry, scream, or simply curl up in a ball. Chances are that when you allow yourself to really feel the feeling it no longer has the same hold over you. When it comes to emotions the only way round is through.

2. Ritualize Your Mornings

Have you ever gone to bed angry and woken up with that same anger burning a hole in your pillow? Or simply just woken up on the wrong side of the bed, feeling wretched for no apparent reason. The first few moments of the morning can be one of the most powerful, whatever mood we climb out of bed in tends to cling to us all day. That’s why it can be incredibly powerful to have a morning ritual as a means to cleanse the emotional palette. Effective rituals vary but the following can be highly effective:

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Journaling: Putting our thoughts out of our head and onto paper can be incredibly cathartic and stream of consciousness writing can be one of the most powerful ways to journal. Simply write out your thoughts as they stream through you, without review or judgement. Even if you have nothing to say, simply write ‘I have nothing to say’ over and over again until another insight appears or simply until the page is filled. Once you’ve filled your set number of pages, don’t review. This isn’t a diary, it’s a tool to purge negative emotions.

Meditation: Quieting the mind through the breath is quite simply one of the most powerful tools we have to release negative emotion, yet it is no easy endeavor. Find a quiet spot and sit quietly for ten to fifteen minutes, focusing on your breath or on a mantra (I find inhaling ‘Let’ and exhaling ‘Go’ to be simple yet effective). When we create a meditation practice, our monkey mind learns to settle and we become more in tune with ourselves which in turn leads to mindfulness. Being mindful creates more space between our thoughts so that we can actually start to become aware when negative emotions creep in, giving us the opportunity to nip it in the bud before the emotion snowballs and takes over your day or your week.

3. Exorcise Through Exercise

As human beings we are designed to move. Exercise is incredibly good for us not only from a physical perspective but from a mental perspective. The hormones that are released when our hearts are pumping and our bodies moving can quite literally change our mindset. The very act of going for a walk, a run or attacking a set of weights forces the mind to focus on the task at hand. Next time you are enraged by something, instead of reaching for a bag of chips or numbing out in front of the TV, get physical. Even if it means dancing around your room like a maniac to some gangster rap music (a personal favorite of mine), you’ll feel a heck of a lot better and possibly have a laugh at just how ridiculous you look.

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4. Change Your Perspective

There’s a well-known quote which states “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change”. Put simply, perspective is everything. Next time you find yourself faced with negative emotions, before you leap down the rabbit hole of rationality and start assigning blame or creating a story around the situation, take a deep breath and ask yourself ‘How can I see this situation differently?’. There are quite literally two sides to every story and then there’s the truth. Even if the other person is clearly in the wrong try to see things from their perspective. Perhaps you need to run through steps 1-3 above before you feel ready, but seeing things from a different perspective can invite a sense of compassion.

If you get into a fight with a friend, try to look at the situation anew. She might be going through a tough time and taking it out on you, not fair but understandable. Even if it’s impossible for you to see the situation any differently, understand that harboring negative emotion only damages you. Learn to let it go, you don’t have to forget what happened but you can try to forgive and move on with your life.

5. Compartmentalize

Emotions are somewhat akin to snowballs. The longer they are allowed to roll on, the bigger they become. Next time you find yourself in the midst of a negative emotional state, try compartmentalizing it. You might be annoyed at the fact that your babysitter cancelled on you at the last minute, but projecting your frustrations onto your husband who in turn projects his frustrations onto the kids serves only one purpose. The whole family gets dragged into the boiling cauldron of negative emotion because the situation snowballed. Instead, get really clear on why you are annoyed or anxious and ring fence it. Don’t let your sadness that you didn’t get that job bleed over into an avalanche of awfulness. Deal with it, dust yourself off and move on. Life can be hard and we all run into situations we don’t like, the key is not to let the negative aspects detract from the positive parts of your life.

Featured photo credit: Photo by: Ed Gregory via stokpic.com

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Published on April 7, 2021

6 Signs Of A Controlling Person To Be Aware Of

6 Signs Of A Controlling Person To Be Aware Of

Some of the most manipulative people are so good at what they do that their words and actions can convince you into thinking they truly care about what’s best for you when in reality, it’s quite the opposite. The most common signs of a controlling person are rarely obvious to outside observers. And for someone enmeshed in a controlling relationship or friendship, it can be incredibly challenging to stay away from this toxic person, even if you’re aware of their emotionally abusive tendencies.

While it’s ultimately up to you to decide whether to preserve or leave a lopsided, unfulfilling relationship, it’s nevertheless critical to understand the following six signs of controlling people so you can better advocate for yourself and mitigate the influence of their manipulative tendencies in your own life.

1. They Push Their Own Personal Agenda

Do you know someone who always tries to micromanage the words, behaviors, and attitudes of people around them? Does this person act like they have the right to know anything they want about you, including your location, what you’re doing in a given moment, who you’re talking to online, or any other private information about you? And when planning events and special occasions, does this person dominate conversations, steer plans in their own preferred directions, disparage others’ suggestions, and refuse to collaborate with anyone who might disagree with them?

If you answered “yes” to some of the above questions, then those are clear signs of a controlling person whom you absolutely need to be cautious around. Controlling people are reluctant to even consider alternative ideas, let alone enthusiastically work with people who have differing views. They prefer to be the captain of every ship—regardless of how much or how little an issue personally impacts them—and they have an arsenal of manipulative tactics to deploy if someone stands in the way of them achieving their own personal agendas.

In long-term relationships with controlling people, you may feel constantly pressured to meet their demands, follow their schedule, and focus on whatever they feel is most important. It’s not an exaggeration to say that these people act like the universe revolves around them, which can be exhausting to deal with for their family members, friends, and colleagues.

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2. They Make Everything Transactional

Controlling people aren’t always self-centered, but they’re not too empathetic either. Empathy for them tends to appear in the form of strategic concessions they use as a means to get what they want. They typically view interpersonal relationships as transactional opportunities to extract more value from people surrounding them, which can have a draining effect on those they interact with.

For example, one sign of a controlling person may be their insistence on “keeping score.” This can involve doing nice things for you with the ulterior motive of demanding something from you at a later date in exchange for what you thought was just an act of kindness or a friendly support.

Perhaps they shower you in praise (also known as “love-bombing”) or gifts then blow up at you if you don’t intuitively know they’re expecting something back from you. None of us are mind-readers, but controlling people behave as though everyone else should think and act like they want others to and those who fall out of line are punished for failing to meet their impossible expectations.

A controlling person may also threaten to withhold support if you don’t adhere to their demands, but they do so in such subtle ways that the guilt they impose blinds you from the unreasonable nature of their behaviors.

Some statements to be wary of include:

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  • “I did ___________ for you. What do you mean you can’t do ___________ for me?”
  • “Remember how I helped you with ___________? That took a lot of time and energy from me, but I guess you didn’t appreciate my help.”
  • “I always give you ___________. Don’t you care about my needs too?”
  • “You’re so selfish!” or “You don’t care about me at all!” (gaslighting if you respond with hesitation or politely decline their request for help for perfectly valid reasons, such as not having enough time or resources to assist them)

3. They Criticize Everything

One of the most common telltale signs of a controlling person is their capacity to criticize anything and everything, even small things that seemingly don’t matter. As with many toxic traits in relationships, these problems typically start out so small that you may not even notice. At first, you may even agree with their criticism or at least be able to understand their perspective when they bring up an issue.

However, the criticism tends to get more intense, more constant, and more perplexing for people who maintain relationships with controlling people. You’ll likely notice how they rarely seem to criticize something they do. It’s almost always other-oriented and these types of people are so manipulative that any rationale they offer can seem plausibly legitimate.

Some warning signs of a controlling person who’s overly critical to the point of abusiveness include:

  • Criticizing things about you that you have little to no control over (e.g., appearance, disability, family)
  • Criticizing your personal choices and interests, such as educational pursuits, career, clothing, favorite music, time spent on your hobbies, etc.
  • Punishing you for expressing vulnerability by invalidating thoughts and feelings you share with them
  • Attacking you whenever you express an opinion counter to theirs

4. They Balk When Someone Criticizes Them

We all know the adage, “what goes around, comes around.” But this statement doesn’t apply as much to toxic, controlling people. They’d much prefer to dish out criticism without ever having to take it in return.

For instance, if your friend constantly talks about your appearance with little regard for your emotions but flips out if you make just a single comment about their appearance, there’s a possibility that they could have some hidden controlling tendencies left unchecked. Remember, these people aren’t just controlling in their behaviors towards others. They’re also actively trying to stay in complete control over every aspect of their lives, which includes how others view them.

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This seemingly insatiable desire for control can prompt them to lash out against even the smallest bits of criticism, leaving people around them too weary or scared to speak up again in the future. While it’s possible they may suffer from something called rejection sensitivity dysphoria, this does not excuse them from the consequences of their words and actions. They should seek professional help to better manage their reactions to criticism.

5. They Socially Isolate You

Not all controlling people do this, but for manipulative narcissists, socially isolating victims is a go-to strategy for maintaining control because it’s effective at preventing people from truly understanding how toxic their partner, family member, or friend is treating them. Think of it this way—if you don’t talk to many other people in your life, there’s less of a risk that you’ll damage their reputation by revealing their abusive tendencies.

Socially isolating others also gives the person more control over you and your life as it becomes more difficult to break away from them if you don’t have other healthier channels of communication and interpersonal support to turn to.

This process doesn’t happen overnight, nor is it something you can readily recognize as abusive. At first, it may seem reasonable, such as asking you to stop engaging so often with family members with whom both of you disagree on major social or political issues. As the social isolation progresses, they may suggest cutting people out of your life—especially if they don’t like that person, regardless of how you personally feel—or even conjure up high-stakes problems like “it’s me or them” under the guise of saving you from people in your life whom they don’t like for whatever reason.

In a controlling person’s life narrative, they’re always the protagonist who’s incapable of any wrongdoing. The blame is always redirected at someone else, whether that’s you or other people in your life. The more they isolate you from other supportive people in your life, the more susceptible you’ll be to falsely believing that they’re right and you “don’t need” your other friends and family when you have someone as perfect as this person.

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6. They’re Emotionally Abusive

It’s hard enough to be in control of your own emotions but when someone else is constantly belittling you and your interests or leveraging guilt and shame to manipulate you into saying or doing what they want, this can make it even more challenging to stay in control of your own life and emotional well-being.

Emotional abuse is another sign of a controlling person that is often overlooked in relationships. After all, human personalities vary widely in terms of passivity, and it’s not uncommon for one person in a relationship to be significantly more passive than the other. This becomes an issue when the controlling partner or friend exudes signs of emotional abuse, which can start subtly and become much more pronounced over time.

Concerning signs of emotionally abusive language or behavior to watch out for include:

  • Dismissing your needs and/or belittling your interests in counterproductive ways
  • Privately or publicly shaming or humiliating you
  • Making you feel as though you can never live up to their expectations or do anything right (according to their own vague, subjective standards)
  • Gaslighting you into thinking they said or did something that never actually happened (making you question your own reality)

Final Thoughts

It’s sometimes hard to see the negative things about someone with whom we have a relationship. We may sometimes unconsciously overlook the signs of a controlling person, especially if that person is someone we have known for a long time or are close to us. However, cutting them off your life is the best thing you can do for yourself. Just watch out for these six signs of a controlling person and take immediate action when you spot them.

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Featured photo credit: Külli Kittus via unsplash.com

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