It’s true, what are commonly thought of as “negative emotions” can totally suck. One minute you might feel like you are on the top of the world, and the next thing you know, something happens that triggers anger, hurt, fear or a combination of unattractive feelings.
Everyone can admit to trying to run away from uncomfortable feelings at some point or another. We run from our own emotions, put ourselves down for having them, or go into reality television mode and spew our discontent on everything and everyone around us.
Maybe we turn to self-medicating ourselves with alcohol or drugs, go into victim mode, blaming everything and everybody else for our sorry lot in life. Or, we shove those feelings deep inside which keep them hidden, but also keeps us ugly with temper tantrums, ulcers, selfish acts, or worse, boiling just beneath the surface of our fake smiles.
Despite all the bad news, there is good news that deserves reflection. Think for just a moment about how feelings that are commonly referred to as negative are there to protect us. An example of the good in the bad would be how the fear of walking off a tall building will keep you from falling to your death. In this way, every negative emotion has a silver lining if we look closely enough.
Therefore, “negative” feelings are only negative when they affect our lives in ways that don’t help us.
Here are some tips for dealing with feelings:
Take a step back. You don’t have to BE your emotions and your emotions are not reality. Your emotional world is something that comes from lots of places. Reality is not always one of them. Simply observe the emotion from a curious standpoint without judgment.
Next, validate your emotion and accept yourself for having it. “I notice I’m feeling – Insert the feeling you are having– and I love myself for having a full range of feelings.” is a good place to start.
(Notice I haven’t said to act on your feelings yet.)
After taking a moment for self-validation, decide whether the emotion is relevant to your life at this moment. Here are a few examples of how to do that:
You feel nervous that your job interview next week is going to flop. Will you cave into those nervous feelings and start worrying until you feel sick and sabotage yourself at the interview to prove you’re right to feel so distraught about it? Or, do you realize that you can’t read the future and decide to use that nervous energy to prepare to be at your best for the interview?
You notice that you are angry that someone cut in front of you on the highway. Good! That was a chemical/hormonal boost to keep you safe in the moment. Are you safe? Then, let the anger go, it is no longer of use. Some deep breaths, or thinking about how that driver must have something horrible going on in their life to be so unaware of you could be helpful in this circumstance.
How about those times that you just can’t figure out why you are feeling the way you are? That is a good time to distract yourself. That doesn’t mean shove the feeling aside, it means give yourself a break before trying to figure it out. Do something enjoyable, or something that requires your focus. The feeling may pass like a storm cloud and be because you were tired, or ate the wrong foods, or any number of reasons. If the emotion persists, then go back to step number one and begin again.
The most important thing to remember about feelings is that they are messages. For instance, feeling angry is not necessarily negative, it just may be an indicator that you need to set stronger boundaries.
So get out there and feel those feelings, dive deep into what they may be telling you and respond from a wise mind instead of reacting out of childish ignorance.