Dealing With Negative Emotions
One of the great challenges in life many people face is dealing with negative emotions. Though some may not realize it, a person’s ability or inability to deal with negative emotions has a very large impact on the quality of the lives they lead.
1. The labeling of emotions
2. The illusion of no-control
People usually consciously or unconsciously choose to label emotions either as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ – and from that labeling, they have a bunch of emotions that they identified as either to be indulged in or to be avoided at all costs.
Though the pain & discomfort we get from certain emotions may make it seem like some emotions are indeed ‘bad’ emotions, but by examining deeper, we can see that it is not true. For example, lazing around all day and just having fun gives you pleasurable emotions. However, does that mean that it should be sustained in the long term? Of course not. You’ll definitely feel good about it now, but do you want to remain that way throughout your life? Do you want to be stagnant forever? You won’t be improving yourself, achieving greater heights and contributing to the world if you are only concerned with sustaining this ‘good’ emotion.
Similarly, the emotions of frustration and disappointment from failures are what spurred many individuals to go on to achieve great things. So, the bottom line? There are no good or bad emotions. Don’t even label emotions as every emotion has it’s own value and usefulness.
The second part of the problem is from the idea that it is impossible for us to control our emotions. It is the belief that emotions come to us spontaneously and in reaction to the environment and happenings around. While that may be true, we can certainly control our responses to these emotions. Because that is ultimately what we are concerned with. We don’t really care about what emotions we feel, but rather how the emotions affect us.
So while something that happened may have caused you to feel angry, that doesn’t mean that you have to react in an angry way. You don’t have to retaliate or cry or bang your head on the wall just because you feel angry. You can choose to respond in a positive, empowering manner. Sadly, sometimes people act as if there isn’t any other choice. They ‘have’ to react to it. Once the emotion comes over them they just ‘lose it’. Now that is not the right way of dealing with negative emotions.
Deal with negative emotions by knowing that instead of losing it every time, we can choose how we want to respond to any emotion. Though it can seem very difficult when the emotion is very strong and pervasive, having the knowledge and techniques on dealing with negative emotions will make it easier and easier.
And, one of the core aspects of dealing with negative emotions is to not put any labels on it.
Dealing with negative emotions : The usual not-so-smart way
Everyone of us has a choice on how they want to deal with negative emotions. Sadly, many people choose to handle negative emotions by way of either avoidance or denial. By labeling emotions (as good or bad) first, then believing that they have no control over it, to them it feels like there are no other options in dealing with negative emotions apart from avoidance and denial.
As the pain from negative emotions can be quite overwhelming at times, many choose to avoid it altogether. They do this by steering away from any action or situation that could lead to having negative emotions. For example, in order to avoid disappointment, it is best not to try at all.
Now when things and ‘bad’ emotions become unavoidable, people take the route of denial instead. This is done with the hope that by ignoring and putting aside the emotion, it will eventually go away. Not a good idea. In fact, it is even more dangerous as though you may be able to bury your emotions for now, it will eventually re-surface over time. And when that happens, all the energy from the pent up emotions over the years will usually be released together in a destructive manner.
Though people usually avoid or deny negative emotions, there are those in the other extreme as well. Some people derive importance and significance from having to face negative emotions constantly. So much so that it has become a part of their identity. They feel as living a tough life dealing with difficulties daily makes them somewhat more important and significant than others. This type of thinking is much worse than avoiding and denying emotions.
Dealing with negative emotions : The new smart way
The effective way of dealing with negative emotions is by understanding the message of the emotion and making use of it to drive you further ahead.First, understand that your emotions serve you. Then, learn to use your emotions rather than be controlled by it. Each emotion whether seemingly good or bad, tells us an important message of our current situation. How are we currently doing and whether changes or further action needs to be taken.
Take those negative emotions as a guide and a system to call you to take action. By avoiding or denying it, you are missing the valuable messages that your emotions are giving you. Emotions = Calls to action.
Firstly, whenever you feel a surge of negative emotions coming over you, quickly interrupt it. Do it by thinking/saying/doing something totally bizarre and unexpected. This shocks our system so much that the emotion loses it’s initial power. For a more detailed explanation, check out the steps for controlling emotions.
Next identify the negative emotion you are feeling and match your emotion to the list below. Make out how the message of that emotion fits to your situation & what are the appropriate follow up actions on your part.Note that for emotions that are very intense such as panic attacks, a different approach on how to stop panic attacks would be more suitable and effective.
Fear : It is the expectancy that something bad is about to happen. The message of this emotion is for us to prepare for it. Take action and think of the best ways to deal with the situation. After you’ve prepared as well as you can, sit back and have faith. If there is nothing else you can do, there’s no point in worrying about it.
If your perception is correct, properly communicate with the person involved about your sense of loss. When you do that, usually the feelings of hurt will disappear.
Follow that up by setting a new goal that is even better and more exciting for your life. Disappointment is also a call to develop more patience and flexibility in approach. Realize that perhaps what you need is to wait a little longer, and develop a different approach to achieve the goal.
To deal with anger, you have a few choices ;
1. Evaluate whether it is possible that you misinterpreted the situation. That in fact no value has been violated.
2. If someone else violated your value, know that your ‘rule’ may not be the correct one. Just because something is right for you, does not mean it is right for everyone else. Everyone has their own set of values, the person probably has no idea that they violated one of your values. Follow up by communicating to the person neutrally about the importance of that standard to you. This will ensure that it never happens again.
3. Accept that you have violated one of your values, and vow never to do it again. Brainstorm ways to prevent it from happening again, and how you would deal with it if you are caught in the same situation in the future.
Apart from the labelling of emotions and the illusion of no control, we generally have other false beliefs and ideas about emotions. This creates pain and our dysfunctional relationship with emotions. All these beliefs are covered in my ebook on emotional mastery : 'Never Lose Control Again'. If you are having difficulties with emotions, be sure to check out the book to learn how to control anger, anxiety and other negative emotions.
With these knowledge and steps, you can master whatever emotion is thrown at you. You are no longer at the mercy of emotions, rather you are in control of it. When dealing with negative emotions, practice handling it this way. Just like a muscle, the more you exercise, the bigger it grows.
The more you do it, the easier it gets. Before you know it, you’ll be naturally reacting to any ‘negative’ emotions in an empowering way. And when you realize that, you’ll be filled with a great feeling and confidence to face anything life throws at you. You become virtually unstoppable.
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